Despite being the main transport system for one of the world’s busiest and most populous capitals, London’s Underground is a big black “not spot” for mobile users. It’s a big challenge to fix. This is Part 3 of our look at how connected the capital really is.

Probably the largest “not spot” in the UK is the London Underground, according to a report published by the UK government’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee. This is despite Wi-Fi connectivity on the underground in other major cities. Barcelona has full 3G coverage in all of its subway stations and between 50 to 75 per cent of tunnels.

London is the only one of the top 10 metro systems in the world that does not have a mobile infrastructure.

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee 2015

 

Seoul has had LTE in its entire subway system and trains since 2013, and Tokyo has had 3G service since the same year over almost all of its metro system. Melbourne offers passengers full unbroken 3G voice and 4G data coverage throughout its 12km stretch of train tunnels.

 

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee says: “London is the only one of the top 10 metro systems in the world that does not have a mobile infrastructure. While passengers are able to use Wi-Fi at tube stations, there are challenges to providing connectivity throughout the underground network.”

Since 2005, Transport for London (TfL) has been running a number of projects to investigate connectivity throughout the network but the cost of installation in a tunnel environment has proved to be a barrier.

However, TfL is now looking at whether rollout could occur alongside the Home Office’s upgrade of its national mobile communications system for the emergency services. In parallel, TfL is also assessing the feasibility of building the infrastructure with partners to enable mobile network operators such as EE and O2 to offer connectivity underground. This has already been done successfully in a number of cities, including New York. 

Read parts 1 and 2 of our report on London's connectivity here and here.

Kate O’Flaherty is a journalist specialising in consumer and b2b technology. She has written for SC UK Magazine, CIO, The Times and The Guardian. Kate is one of a number of experienced journalist contributors to our second edition of HomeWork, with features and comment on the business landscape for New and Growing Companies in London.