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Underground Phone Reception
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The tube will get full 4G coverage by 2024. Good or bad thing?

Some key station, including Tottenham Court Road and Oxford Circus, are due to be connected by the end of this year

Chris Waywell
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Chris Waywell
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There are many things to love about London’s Underground network. Its iconic graphic design, atmospheric stations and those maps you get at the penultimate stops on lines that only have two stations on them. What it’s lacked, though, for more than 150 years, is decent mobile phone coverage. Not for long. Plans have been announced to have full coverage across the entire network by the end of 2024. Which is great, right? Right?

Yeah, but is it? Okay, pre-Covid, the tube was a sweaty overcrowded mess of stinky lads, self-important ‘business’ types and panicky tourists wondering what the hell is going on with these supposedly self-effacing meek English people and their terrifying passive-aggression? But this last year – at some off-peak times, anyway – the tube has been a rolling haven of peace, compared to usual. You can ride on it and appreciate its beauty, its engineering, its sheer subterranean other-worldliness.

So the prospect of it being full again, only this time with people also yelling down their phones to their ‘clients’ might feel like a mixed blessing.

The plan involves a new 4G and 5G network. Hitherto, phone reception has been available on sections of the Jubilee line. Mobile coverage on underground sections of the tube had previously only been available during a 2017 trial on the Waterloo & City line. Full 4G coverage on the tube was one of Sadiq Khan’s mayoral re-election promises. The roll-out will initially target some of London Underground’s busiest stations, with Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Circus and Euston among the first due to get full connectivity, hopefully by the end of this year.

So in a year’s time, when you’re shoved up against some sweaty mask-avoider who’s shouting about sales targets in a tunnel between Bethnal Green and Bank, look back on these quieter times and sigh (discreetly). Don’t make eye contact, though, obviously.

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