Capita to install 4G ESN infrastructure on London Underground

(Image credit: Transport for London)

Capita has won a £23.5 million contract to build network infrastructure across the London Underground as part of the planned 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN).

The multi-billion pound ESN will replace the analogue-based ‘Airwave’ radio system currently used by forces, firefighters and ambulance crews and promises more resilient connectivity and access to data-rich applications that will improve public safety. 

Operational costs will also be significantly lower.


EE won a £1 billion contract in 2015 to build more than 400 new sites and to develop a core system to support the ESN, while long range 800MHz spectrum will be deployed at 3,500 locations. The network will be able to prioritise ESN traffic when required and the firm will introduce satellite backhaul for hard to reach areas.

Capita will design, install and test network cables in tunnels and deploy local network infrastructure in platforms and stations – ensuring emergency services can communicate in London’s subterranean railway system.

The company has previously worked with Transport for London (TfL) on trials of 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity on parts of the Jubilee Line earlier this year.

"This contract delivers key elements of the infrastructure required to bring the new Emergency Services Network to the London Underground network,” said Shashi Verma, TfL CTO. “With close to half of the Tube located underground, it’s vital that this system will help support the police, fire and ambulance services if they are required to help our customers."

The ESN was originally due to launch in 2017 but is now more than £3.1 billion over budget and still yet to be fully deployed. Repeated delays led the Home Office to ‘reset’ the project in September 2018, with rollout introduced in phases.

A report from the National Audit Office has concluded that a 2022 launch data was still too ambitious.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.