underground signage
Photo by Yoss Cinematic on Pexels.com

It seems reasonable to jump on a 21st century transit link like Canada Line and expect that there will be some sort of free internet available for you as part of TransLink’s customer service. Last year I wrote about TransLink  announcing that free access to internet service was coming, and would be offered on SkyTrain, the SeaBus and on transit. Even better, “the TransLink Board approved the development of a strategy to provide washrooms on the system “over the longer term”. 

Of course there’s a bit of “cut and paste” internet service at the SeaBus terminal and on the SeaBus itself, and sadly TransLink says it will take six years for complete transit network coverage courtesy of their partnership with Shaw cable.

But across the Pond in Britain, Transport for London is way ahead of TransLink in their announcement of 4G mobile phone technology going live on the Jubilee line’s tunnels early in 2020, with a full rollout in the next few years.Currently London’s tube stations have cell phone and internet reception which is non-existent in the train tunnels. That will require 1,240 miles of cables being installed in the tunnels which is close to 2,000 kilometers of wire.

London’s underground transit tunnels are one of the last major public places in Britain without phone reception.I find it fascinating that Transport for London is providing the underground communications service as a public space amenity. But also being British, the Guardian ruefully observes that such cellular network availability creates “new challenges to commuter etiquette.”  

The Mirror reports that the proposed new cellular coverage has mixed consumer reviews.

“NOOOOOOO! It’s my favourite time on the tube, when we hit a tunnel and people are quiet! Don’t spoil it! There are so few places left that you can just be left alone in peace!”Another added: “Noooooooooo. More obnoxious passengers shouting into their phones about whether they want nuggets or kiev for dinner.”

The Moscow subway system and even the tunnel crossing the English Channel has some form of cellular service, but British deportment chatting on cellphones in full “carriages” is a  cultural concern. It was Mark Bulle who is Transport for London’s head of “infrastructure transformation” that reminded everyone that it was data services that would probably be the hot ticket, with fast enough internet to watch video streams. The new service would likely not have a whole lot of  people on cell phones candidly discussing what they are going to eat for dinner.

Here’s a brief YouTube video on the 4G network trials that were undertaken by Transport for London.


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