BT goes underground with data centre for London tube
BT Wholesale is to provide the data centre needs for BAI Communications’ contract to put 4G and 5G mobile communications on the London Underground.
Transport for London (TfL) last year signed a 20-year concession with BAI to deliver full mobile and digital connectivity across London’s metro system, both on stations and in tunnels.
Now BAI says it will use BT Wholesale for carrier-neutral data centre facilities for the service. BT’s own mobile arm, EE, and CK Hutchison’s Three UK are the first mobile operators to say they will be using the TfL service.
Alex Tempest (pictured), managing director for BT Wholesale, said: “Today’s deal is further evidence of BT’s commitment to boost the capital’s digital infrastructure – helping London maintain its status as a great place to live, work, and do business.”
Billy D’Arcy, CEO of BAI Communications UK, said: “This deal marks a significant step in our progress towards delivering high-speed mobile coverage across the London Underground network, with BT’s data centres playing an essential role in helping London leapfrog other major cities in terms of connectivity.”
London’s metro service has been way behind that of many other urban transport services across the world – with major cities including Barcelona, Hong Kong, Paris, Stockholm and Washington DC providing network coverage to their travelling customers.
BAI’s new 4G and 5G services will cover ticket halls, platforms and tunnels as the network is built over the next three years, with all stations and tunnels due to have mobile coverage by the end of 2024.
BAI’s network will be available for use by all mobile operators and will provide 4G and 5G-ready mobile infrastructure, allowing for seamless upgrades in the future. The infrastructure will also be made available to the Emergency Services Network (ESN), which uses EE’s 4G network.
D’Arcy added: “BT Wholesale’s services will support our neutral host infrastructure in transforming the experience of customers with all UK mobile operators, providing seamless, 5G-ready coverage that will allow passengers to move around the capital more smartly, safely and securely.”
BT Wholesale said the deal forms part of its wider edge computing strategy, “which is focused on bringing new customer experiences to market by harnessing the power of edge compute, BT’s leading 5G network and its innovation and partnering capabilities”.
The main challenge for TfL and its service providers are that most of the main tunnels through the centre of London were built in the 1860s, as the world’s first metro network, and others were built around 1900. They have limited space for cellular equipment or cables, or for their power supplies.