There’s something really liberating about the lack of mobile coverage on the Tube. First and foremost, it’s a good enough excuse to ignore the 3,287 work emails stewing in our inbox and crack on with our podcast or get some reading done instead.
Sure, it’s annoying not being able to find out what’s for dinner or let our mate know we’re running late for drinks, but the (mostly) mobile reception-free zone is like an oasis in a digitally overloaded desert.
Well, this could all be about to change under plans from Mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London. The Underground could soon get full mobile coverage, allowing us to make calls and use the internet in the same way we do above ground, the Financial Times reported.
Telecoms infrastructure companies have apparently had informal talks with TfL and it’s expected to invite bids for the contract after next Thursday’s general election. So, pretty soon.
It’s already possible to get WiFi on many Tube station platforms but users must input their details and the connection is lost as soon as the train starts moving. (Plus, more than half of the “Underground” network is above ground anyway, along with the Overground and most of the DLR, so we can already use our phones normally on much of London's transport.)
The Tube’s lack of mobile coverage makes London an outlier among major world cities, including Paris, New York, Berlin and Tokyo, something Khan seems intent on remedying. The new plan is a step towards his goal of boosting digital connectivity across London.
A source from his office confirmed that the Mayor does indeed hope to introduce mobile coverage on the Tube and that more details will be released shortly.
TfL said it is ”keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers,” adding: “The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”
Londoners seem divided over whether it's a good thing or not, with many saying they dread having to listen to others' tedious phone calls.
While others said it would be good for emergencies and pointed out that people were probably overreacting.
Hey, at least scrolling through Instagram could make having to rest your head under someone's moist armpit a tad less soul-destroying.