Londoners will be free to use their mobiles to make calls or go online on Tube trains deep under the capital within two years, Sadiq Khan pledged today.
The Mayor set a 2019 deadline for the start of 4G coverage in Underground tunnels for the first time as he launched a major new drive to eliminate the capital’s connectivity “not-spots.”
The ambition to allow passengers full access to mobile networks within two years times will allow London to catch up - or even overtake - other great global cities such as Seoul, Tokyo, New York or Paris.
It will also bring to an end virtually the last “hiding place” in London for people trying to avoid being contacted on their phones.
In a letter to the leaders of all 33 London local authorities Mr Khan unveiled a new package of targets that included ”delivering 4G mobile connectivity to London Underground, both in station and tunnels from 2019, future-proofed ready for 5G.”
City Hall sources said tenders for the contract to deliver mobile coverage are “going out shortly” with a first trial expected on the Waterloo & City line. where testing can take place at night and at the weekends when it is closed.
Although the aim is for 4G coverage to start before the end of 2019 it is likely to be rolled out over a longer timescale because of the complexity of the technology.
As well as making calls or sending texts passengers will be able to access social media or other websites and play data intensive games.
However, the historic first subterranean calls under central London will be made by passengers on the Elizabeth Line, which will have full mobile coverage when its services launch in December 2018.
Today’s announcement was welcomed by business leaders who have long complained that London has lagged far behind rival cities in the development of its digital networks.
David Leam, infrastructure director at lobby group London First, said: “Business needs fast and reliable connections across our capital – in the office, for people working from home and when they’re on the move.
“We should be making the most of existing infrastructure, including the London Underground network, to boost speeds and deliver coverage to areas that have been left behind.
"But we also need London’s planners to get behind this work, otherwise our digital ambitions risk being strangled by red tape.”