London Said to Seek Mobile Network Deal for Underground Trains

  • Request said to come after next week’s U.K. general election
  • City lags behind New York, Paris on subway internet service

London’s subway commuters are one step closer to being able to surf the internet on moving trains, as the city prepares to seek bids from telecommunications companies.

A request for proposals to roll out a fourth-generation mobile network extending across Transport for London’s 402-kilometer (249-mile) underground system is due to go out after the country’s June 8 general election, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified as the discussions are private.

The U.K. government has been in talks with the city on bringing mobile services to underground trains as it prepares for police, firefighters and paramedics to use a new national emergency services network being delivered by BT Group Plc’s EE unit. Mayor Sadiq Khan has been pushing to improve internet coverage in England’s capital, which lags behind cities including New York, Tokyo and Paris in providing mobile service in its subway.
“We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers,” Transport for London said in an email, while declining to comment on specifics. “The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”

The city has been trying to secure a deal with the telecommunications industry to bring mobile service to its underground trains for years and abandoned an effort ahead of the 2012 London Olympics after talks broke down. Most stations on the network already offer Wi-Fi, but the signal doesn’t extend to the tunnels, so passengers can’t generally make calls, browse websites or check email while trains are moving.

The Financial Times earlier reported on the request for bids.

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