girl using smartphone on London Underground

Why 4G on the London Underground matters

Ben Roberts

15 Aug 2017

Love it or hate it, 4G mobile coverage is apparently coming to the London Underground by 2019. I can hear my less connected friends now, bemoaning the loss of their peace. The phone calls, the incessant refreshing of social media feeds and, well, everything most people do the rest of the time they’re not on the underground. But I can also hear the others saying, “Finally! I can stream while on the underground,” or “I don’t have to get off a stop early to make it to that work call!” Whichever side of the fence you’re on, this divisive issue does matter for two key reasons: maintaining London’s leading position in the world and meeting people’s demand for technology and flexibility.

Keeping up appearances

London is one of the world’s leading cities. It has culture, power, diversity and more (and let's not forget Harvard). It has held this position by being a pioneer and not being afraid of change. It’s that attitude that brought the world its first underground railway back in 1863 - the Metropolitan Railway, which is now part of the Circle, Hammersmith & City, and Metropolitan lines. The truth is, while we’re still moving forwards in many ways, other cities’ more modern underground services have had connectivity for years. Cities like Seoul, Tokyo, New York and Paris have boasted mobile connections for years – so it’s about time we caught up. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Kahn, wrote a letter to all 33 London local authorities confirming a new set of targets. This included “delivering 4G mobile connectivity to London Underground, both in station and tunnels from 2019, future-proofed ready for 5G.” This final point is key. This is what can help separate this investment from the rest. By preparing for 5G, the capital will be readying itself for the next wave of innovation and connected services.

Innovation and access

As businesses get used to the idea that we’ll all be connected while on the Underground, it’s bound to spark new ideas for new services, companies and business models. 5G will play a crucial role in this. Creative minds will seize this opportunity and we will be using new or enhanced tools that we didn’t think we needed, but somehow find ourselves not being able to live without. On that point, many of us now expect to be connected at all times; the internet is seen as just another utility. We want to access our networks, work, and hobbies wherever we are. It is this flexibility to communicate, post or consume, as we please, that matters. To truly deliver on this expectation, it is a natural extension to bring connectivity to the Underground.

Get with the times

It’s time we all got on board (see what I did there?) with underground connectivity. Our city needs it and our people crave it.