back to article Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3, 4G: Tube comms trials for emergency crews

Transport for London has tentatively started testing 4G on the Tube for emergency services. TfL's CTO said he was not "absolutely confident" it would be complete by January, 2019, however. The £2.9bn Airwave contract, which dates from 2000, will be switched off by 2020 and replaced by the 4G Emergency Services Network (ESN) …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The aim is that the technology will eventually be used to allow the public to use 4G in the underground tunnels

    Imagine the stench, heat, overcrowding, sloth and discomfort of the tube. Now think, is there any possible way to make it worse? The only answer (within the law) is to add the pain of numerous arseholes blathering inanities loudly into their phones.

    Another reason to walk.

    1. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

      Re: Noooooooooooooooooooo!

      It's called progress. Google it. And that's presumably what 4G will be used for - data. I don't see people on trains blathering on incessantly. I see people quietly listening to music, watching movies or playing around with facebook. This whole 'no talking on phones' thing is bullshit. It's a thing that is only a problem because people decided it was. Fuck 'em.

      1. Dale 3

        Re: Noooooooooooooooooooo!

        I googled it. Turns out, "Progress is an organisation of Labour party members which aims to promote a radical and progressive politics for the 21st century." So I'm not sure what your point was :-)

  2. John Robson Silver badge


    I still don't see Airwave getting turned off by then...

    I just don't believe that EE will be able to provide the LTE coverage that is required, or the resilience...

    But hey, what do I know. Since we can make 'good guy only' backdoors in encryption I'm sure that the laws of physics* can be overcome as well...

    *To be fair I haven't checked what the minimum available carrier frequency of LTE is, so it might be just about possible if they invest very heavily, and cooperate with AW to access all the sites that they have in discrete locations (like national parks etc)

    1. Simon Rockman

      Re: 2020?

      Minimum LTE is 2 x 5MHz

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: 2020?

        That's bandwidth, not frequency - though there is some down at 700MHz

  3. wyatt

    Bless, can't believe they're still not in a position to get this working, not like it's important.

    Anyone willing to post as A/C to let us know how it's really going with the testing for the Emergency Services? Not spoke to anyone in the know for a good few months now and they said it was concerning back then that it didn't work very well and was little coverage.

  4. TRT Silver badge

    Nothing about...

    the regular tube communication system though. I understand that relaying communications manually between two systems is a major issue with getting things done right. At the moment, I understand, the emergency service controllers can broadcast messages to TfL/LUL staff in a defined emergency zone using an override channel on their regular radios - it seems like a pretty advanced system in that respect.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its not going to go well. Frequencies used in Airwave = Good, 4G etc = Bad. But the government are determined to reuse (sell) airwave useful frequencies, and have pretended that the extra bandwidth will be useful. Personally I'd prefer my coppers to be able to call for help everywhere, rather than send a selfie in most places.

  6. Simon Rockman

    A whole heap of issues

    El Reg has documented many of the issues withe the ESN which show why it's just not going to happen, but the tube has some very special problems,

    The chief one, and one no-one likes to talk about, is the working practices.

    Say a light bulb needs replacing, and all the requisite permissions and forms have been filled in for a new one.

    Someone needs to fit the new bulb. That needs to be done outside operating hours at k'ching overtime.

    That someone also needs to have the necessary safety certificates. There are two of them. But no-one who changes light bulbs has either of them so has to be accompanied by someone who does.

    No-one has both certificates so the bulb-changer has to be accompanied by two people with certificates. All at k'ching rates.

    On the London Underground it really does take three men to change a light buld.

    But it gets worse. Under the working practices they don't just rock up at the faulty bulb. The get paid to travel to a muster point and then paid to travel to the faulty bulb whereupon they take a break. Then the tricky technical work of replacing the bulb is done, then they take another break. Then they travel back to the muster point and then home.

    The cost of the operation is eleven times what you would expect.

    The Tetra system on the Underground is called the Connect project. It was a three year project which took more than 11 years to complete.

    I am overwhelmed with admiration for Virgin media who got wifi into the stations, but hugely pessimistic that anything will happen with the ESN.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: A whole heap of issues

      If they only CAN work during possession, why would it be overtime? They're contracted at the rate they are and the hours of possession are very, very tightly controlled and defined in advance. Very predictable. Over-running a possession is severely penalised, so no incentives for overtime are offered.

  7. alwallgbr

    "We don't have any concerns about the technology working"

    Anybody who has implemented underground systems for emergency comms might disagree!

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