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TfL set to tender for London Underground 4G network

Thursday, June 1st 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Passengers on the London Underground will finally be able to get a mobile signal as work to install a 4G service could be underway in the near future.

According to the Financial Times, Transport for London (TfL) and London mayor Sadiq Khan are in talks with a number of telecoms firms about the plans.

Providers could be invited to submit bids for the work soon after the general election on 8 June.

BT, which owns the UK’s biggest mobile network in EE and controls the country’s largest broadband network through its Openreach division, could bid.

Infrastructure specialists such as Arqiva, BAI Communications and Wireless Infrastructure Group could also be involved in discussions.

Virgin Media currently provides wi-fi at more than 250 Tube and 79 London Overground stations.

Virgin, EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 customers can use the service for free as part of their plan. Other passengers can buy a daily, weekly or monthly wi-fi pass.

The wi-fi covers station platforms but not the tunnels between them, so users can’t get a signal when the train is moving.

A TfL spokesperson said: “We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers.

“The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”

Cable.co.uk previously reported that rail passengers were willing to pay up to 17% more for a ticket if it meant they could get better mobile signal and internet access.

The Department for Transport’s Mobile Connectivity Research Study found that 54% of internet users on trains saw the quality of their connection as slow or intermittent.

In its general election manifesto, the Conservative Party promises “full and uninterrupted” mobile coverage on main train lines and “guaranteed wi-fi internet service on all such trains”.

Labour pledges to deliver “uninterrupted 5G coverage” on major railways and to expand the provision of free public wi-fi on public transport.

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