Tube 4G arrives on the Jubilee Line

(Image credit: Transport for London)

Trials of 4G connectivity on the London Underground are now underway, with passengers on the Jubilee Line able to read emails, access social networks and watch videos on streaming services on their daily commute.

The pilot covers the eastern half of the line, with coverage extending to all platforms and tunnels between Canning Town and Westminster. Coverage will also be available in corridors and ticket halls – except in London Bridge and Waterloo where only they Jubilee Line platforms are covered.

Customers of all four major operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – and Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) like Tesco Mobile and Virgin Mobile that use their infrastructure will be able to access the service.

Tube 4G coverage

 "We’re proud to be working with TfL and other mobile network operators to bring connectivity to where our customers need it most and we are excited to see the future potential of this project as it expands across the tube network," said Derek McManus, O2 COO

“Every year, the average London commuter spends two weeks on the tube travelling to and from work, so there’s a huge opportunity for us to help people reclaim that valuable time," added outgoing Three CEO Dave Dyson

“This is a big step for both connectivity, and for London," said BT Consumer CEO Marc Allera. "We know how valuable [connectivity] is, and this switch on aims to pave the way for a wider rollout across the Underground.”

Although a public Wi-Fi network operated by Virgin Media has been available in stations since 2012, mobile coverage has been entirely absent. One of the reasons given for this exclusion was the difficulty in deciding who would build and operate the required infrastructure given the complexities of the operation.

However with hundreds of miles of cabling to be laid, and a culture of cooperation now in evidence among operators, it appears as though London’s most notable mobile blackspot could be covered.

Transport for London (TfL) had been expected to award the contract for building the concession this summer, with four infrastructure firms bidding for the rights, while the Home Office’s Emergency Services Network (ESN) will also be powered by the network.

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.