07 Sep 2022

A step closer to hyperconnected London

How BAI Communications and TfL are building shared infrastructure for a greener, safer, smarter London 

Guest blog by Billy D’Arcy, UK CEO at BAI Communications

With the increase in flexible and hybrid working, more people need access to fast, reliable internet wherever they are - be that at home, work, or on the move.  

As part of our 2021 Connectivity Outlook report, we surveyed public transport passengers in five major cities around the world, including London, to understand the evolving public expectations of transport systems. We found that 91% agreed that seamless mobile coverage above and below ground should be a feature of a world-class city. 

Good connectivity is essential for anyone who relies on digital platforms for work or study, to keep connected with family and friends, and to take advantage of everything going on in the community where they live and to feel safe while doing so. 

At BAI Communications, we are providing a solution to this challenge through our 20-year partnership with Transport for London (TfL) to deliver high-speed mobile connectivity across the capital - in what will be the most advanced and largest infrastructure project of its type in the world. 

We’re well underway, with Vodafone and Virgin Media O2 agreeing to be part of our network last month, joining Three and EE to ensure that customers of all four mobile network operators will be able to access continuous 4G connectivity across the Tube. Bank, Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and Camden Town stations will all receive coverage over the next six months, and all stations and tunnels across the network – including the recently opened Elizabeth line – remain on course to have high-quality and uninterrupted mobile coverage by the end of 2024. 

It doesn’t end here. As part of the wider Connected London programme, we’re aiming to invest over £1 billion to help create a backbone of mobile and digital connectivity for London. A new high-capacity full-fibre network will connect homes and businesses, as well as provide 5G-ready technology to fast-track London’s evolution as a smart city. 

In its recent report, Demystifying the Smart City, techUK argued that smart cities are no longer ‘nice-to-have’ projects but fundamental to enabling cities to achieve their economic, social and environmental ambitions. It is by providing the base connectivity infrastructure, smart city applications can be used to deliver improvements for local government and for citizens, for example supporting city planning, adult social care, traffic congestion, public safety and air quality. The opportunities are endless. 

Through using a neutral host model - where networks share the infrastructure – we can work with different mobile operators to address not-spots with less disruption and at a lower cost for the operator. We’re currently using this model with Sunderland City Council to build 5G-powered smart city infrastructure via small cell technology with an ambition to help boost their economy. This technology is already transforming digital services in Sunderland for sectors including manufacturing and logistics, education and social care, as well as creating jobs and reducing digital exclusion.  

To provide one example, we have partnered with the University of Sunderland to develop one of the UK’s first 5G Universities. The University will benefit from ultra-fast public access Wi-Fi across its campus, as well as an Internet of Things network and a 5G test lab. All of this will connect and enhance campus services and support pioneering research. 

Overall, this model can provide a game changer for addressing hard to reach and under-served communities across the country, improving coverage in difficult locations, be that highly congested areas or remote, hard-to-reach environments, contributing towards levelling up connectivity across the UK. 

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