EE rolls out 4G across Glasgow's underground network

The network is currently restricted to EE customers but is likely to expand in the near future

Glasgow’s commuters can now benefit from 4G connectivity across the city’s 15 subway stations, following a successful rollout by EE.

The 4G infrastructure has been installed to support an emergency services network (ESN), which is due to be activated in the coming months and will provide secure critical communication alongside the subway route, with the rollout being extended to tunnels in the future.

The news comes nearly six years after EE won the £1 billion contract to supply the UK's emergency services with the LTE-based ESN, replacing the existing Tetra network and reportedly saving the UK £1 million a day in running costs.

Today, the operator announced that the Glasgow subway’s 4G rollout has been completed in time for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which starts on 31 October. Over the course of two weeks, Glasgow will see thousands of visitors taking part in the event, with many expected to use the subway system to move between venues.

The 4G network is currently only available for EE customers, although a company spokesperson told IT Pro that it is “open to working with other operators to extend coverage to include their networks”.

Commuters will be able to check emails, send messages, and make calls using the subway’s new 4G network, however communication between the emergency services will take priority over all other network traffic, even at peak transit times. This is in order to ensure that the speed of first responders receiving important data through ESN is not degraded by the commuters’ use of 4G.

Police Scotland’s chief inspector Stevie Espie described the rollout of 4G and ESN in Glasgow’s subway stations as “vital for the emergency services in Scotland”.

“ESN will allow emergency responders enhanced, priority-based access to their critical communications system, even in busier periods, whilst the use of 4G will allow the emergency services to deploy innovative, digital technology to deliver the best service to the public,” he said.

Commenting on the announcement, the ESN managing director at BT’s Enterprise unit, Richard Harrap, said that the technology will allow emergency service responders “to transmit reliable and consistent digital communications across the 4G network”, as well as provide them with “immediate access to life-saving information in live situations and emergencies”.

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“We’re delighted that SPT Subway has also agreed to us opening up the commercial services within the stations, which will not only help emergency services but also support the public, allowing travellers to use the video, voice and data services that they love,” he added.

Work to add network connectivity to the underground system across London has faced repeated delays since the project started in 2017. Tube commuters were initially expected to benefit from 4G networks in 2019, however, current estimates suggest this won't happen until at least 2024. Partial coverage is expected in 2022, with some of the capital’s busiest stations set to receive 4G connectivity, including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road, Bank, Euston, and Camden Town.

EE has been involved in rolling out 4G across London's tube system, having joined Transport for London's trial of the technology in late 2019.

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