After pledging to develop London into a high tech city, Mayor Sadiq Khan has made a promise that the London underground will benefit from full 4G coverage as of 2019. During the process the network will also be future proofed ready to handle 5G when it is introduced.
Is London Underground Behind the Times?
With 1.37 billion passengers a year, the tube is an integral part of living, working or simply visiting London. It is certainly not without its flaws and has its fair share of strikes, delays and weather issues; life in London would however grind to a halt without it. With the frequency and regularity that people in London, especially business professionals, use the tube system, is this new development long overdue?
Compared to other large, progressive cities such as Seoul, Tokyo, New York or Paris, London is being left behind when it comes to technological advances such as these. The tube system is currently only able to offer its passengers Wi-Fi access while waiting in platforms; as the trains move through the tunnels, connectivity drops.
Londonoffices CEO, Chris Meredith expressed a similar view after visiting the remarkable city of Hong Kong,
“I was at first shocked and then impressed to see practically everyone using their phones without interruption or interference while travelling on the tubes in Hong Kong. The visit struck me with the realisation that London is seriously behind in terms of connectivity and technological advances of this sort.”
Controversy over who is owed the Credit
Commenting on his hopes to eradicate coverage ‘not spots’ throughout the city Sadiq Khan told the Evening Standard, “Our digital connectivity needs to be improved — internet connectivity is now a key public utility, and it is no surprise that some businesses see poor connectivity as a barrier to growth.” Adding, “That means working to boost connectivity across London — tackling not-spots, delivering connectivity in the London Underground and working with local authorities to provide digital infrastructure fitting of a global tech hub.”
Controversially, ‘MayorWatch’ journalist Martin Hoscik has revealed there may be an alternative reason for the tech initiative other than the Mayor’s big plans for the city.
Business Insider has published a series of tweets from the journalist which state, “Today City Hall are trying to take credit for bringing 4G to the Tube. It’s cheap spin. TfL is obliged to do it as part of the Home Office decision to move all 999 services from Airwave to a new 4G-based, EE-built national emergency services network. This is zilch to do with Sadiq’s determination to eliminate ‘not spots’. If the 4G doesn’t happen, BTP will ultimately be left with no radios on the Tube.”
When is 4G coming and Do We Want it?
Whatever the reason behind the plans, making calls, entertaining yourself with online games and social media, sending e-mails or sorting out your daily schedule would all be useful activities to carry out during the daily commute. However, with the state of community and communication on our tubes already in a desperate state, wouldn’t being able to access the internet while travelling risk creating an even more depressing atmosphere for travellers?
Those travelling on the Elizabeth Line, due for launch in December 2018 are thought to be the first to experience 4G and the impact it has, for better or worse. First trials of the new technology have been predicted to take place on the Waterloo & City lines where testing can happen overnight when the line is closed.
Sure to please some and frustrate others the introduction of 4G on the tube will certainly be a talking point over the coming months.