BAI Communications has won the much-anticipated contract to provide mobile coverage across the entire London Underground Transport. A statement from TfL this morning confirmed that it has awarded a 20-year concession to BAI. The global connectivity provider will now move forwards with plans to install fibre links and wireless connections across the whole Tube network, helping to remove one of the most high-profile mobile ‘not-spots’ in the UK.
The contract, which sees Mayor Sadiq Khan fulfil one of his election promises from last month, calls for a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity to be established across London. According to TfL, work on preparing some of the capital's busiest stations - including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, and Bank – is due to begin soon, and these stations will be among the first fully connected stations by the end of next year.
Uninterrupted 4G mobile coverage was introduced on the eastern half of the Jubilee line in March 2020. This will now be expanded in phases to cover ticket halls, platforms and tunnels on the Tube network over the next three years, with all stations and tunnels due to have mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
The Tube tunnels will also be used to provide full fibre connectivity across the city, which can then be connected to buildings and street assets such as street lighting and bus stops. According to BAI, this will help to further increase mobile coverage through small mobile transmitters, as well as leveraging 5G to deliver city-wide improvements.
BAI, which was awarded the concession after a competitive tender process, is a major global provider of 4G and 5G connected infrastructure. The company is responsible for the networks covering the New York Subway as well as those on the underground systems in Toronto and Hong Kong. BAI will deliver a neutral host network which will be available to all mobile operators. It will also be 5G ready, allowing for a seamless upgrade for mobile operators in the future.
The London “Tube” is one of the world’s largest underground networks and prior to the pandemic was used by more than five million passengers a day. Once fully delivered, more than 2,000kms of cabling are expected to be installed within tunnels and stations, all of which will be fitted outside of operational hours. In addition to benefiting customers, providing 4G on the network will generate additional revenue for TfL across the 20-year length of the concession, as well as helping operational teams by providing better connectivity while underground.
In a bid to avoid too much disruption, TfL has already begun installing the necessary cabling in a number of tunnels and across some stations. This should also help reduce the need for additional closures. For example, cabling has already been installed on the Jubilee and Victoria lines, as well as within the Northern Line Extension.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “I promised Londoners that if they re-elected me for a second term as Mayor I would deliver 4G throughout the Tube network. It’s already up and running on the eastern half of the Jubilee line and I’m delighted to announced today that I am fulfilling that commitment and full internet access will be available across the Tube, with key central London stations such as Oxford Circus and Euston set to benefit before the end of next year.”
Shashi Verma, Chief Technology Officer at TfL, said: “London Underground was born in the 19th century, and this concession to deliver mobile coverage to the whole Tube network ensures it continues to adapt for customers in the 21st century.
“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.”
Billy D’Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK, said: “Our long-term partnership with TfL will completely transform the passenger experience, as well as helping to boost London’s economy and providing social benefits for years to come.
“By building the most advanced network of its kind in the world here, we are helping London leapfrog other major cities in terms of connectivity and ensure that the capital remains the most attractive place for investment. Across the length of this concession, we fully anticipate investing in excess of £1 billion across the Connected London programme.
“We will also establish a new city-wide high-capacity fibre network throughout London and leverage the power of 5G and the Internet of Things to unlock new opportunities for technological innovation. Our extensive credentials delivering large-scale connected infrastructure and networking solutions position us perfectly to capitalise on the fast-growing commercial appeal of 5G enterprise solutions and smart city applications.”
The pilot section on the Eastern part of the Jubilee line will now be adopted by BAI, which will work to upgrade any assets to its proposed network-wide design.
The network will also be home to the Home Office’s new Emergency Services Network, which will replace the existing Airwave system currently used by the Police, Fire Services and emergency response teams across the UK. TfL has ensured that the latest requirements for the Emergency Services Network are fully incorporated and addressed within the network design.
Track-side connectivity and on-board WiFi services will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference later this year.
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