Three and EE join BAI to connect London Underground

The mobile networks Three and EE have joined the BAI Communications (BAI) network to provide 4G and 5G-ready mobile connectivity across the London Underground.

The deal between the two networks and BAI, which was awarded a 20-year concession with Transport for London (TfL) to deliver mobile connectivity on the Underground, will give customers on the networks access to uninterrupted coverage whilst on the Tube and within stations.

By partnering with BAI to deliver connectivity to their customers, Three and EE will help lead London’s transformation into a truly smart city. All mobile operators will be able to access the London Underground WiFi, as well as BAI’s neutral host mobile network, which can also be made available to the Emergency Services Network (ESN). The infrastructure will also be 5G-ready, allowing seamless upgrades in the future.

Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “It is great that these first two mobile operators have now signed up to provide high-speed, uninterrupted 4G coverage across the London Underground network. Providing mobile connectivity to customers within the tunnels and on platforms across London will help them stay connected more easily and will both provide a long-term revenue stream for TfL and support economic growth across the city.”

Work at some of London’s busiest stations, including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Euston and Camden Town, is underway to prepare them to be some of the first to be connected by the end of 2022. All stations and tunnels across the Tube network are due to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage by the end of 2024.

Customers wearing face masks on the London Underground during the COVID-19 outbreak, March 2020

Progress continues to be made to ensure that customers on the forthcoming Elizabeth line can enjoy mobile connectivity as soon as possible once it has opened in the first half of 2022. Work is now underway to allow 4G connectivity to start being introduced for customers on both the trains and platforms during 2022. From launch, customers will be able to benefit from WiFi connectivity within stations along the line in the same way they currently experience within Tube stations. WiFi access within the tunnels will be introduced later in 2022.

BAI anticipates investing more than £1 billion across the Connected London programme, which will see a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity established across London. A full-fibre network will also be delivered that will connect to buildings and street assets, like traffic lights and lampposts that house small mobile transmitter cells to leverage the power of 5G and the Internet of Things. These can then be used by boroughs, academics, and developers to deliver improvements in everything from air quality and traffic congestion to public safety and city planning.

Billy D’Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK, said: “We’re pleased to welcome Three and EE as our launch partners and the first operators who will be transforming customer experience on the London Underground by enabling them to access seamless, 5G-ready connectivity. This is an important next step on the project’s journey which will allow passengers to move around the capital more smartly, safely, and securely. More broadly, the new backbone of connectivity will create a platform for innovation and allow London’s residents and businesses to harness smart city technology, helping to improve urban life and boost the economy.”

Photo credit: TfL

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