CUSTOMER STORY

Transport for London: a new WiFi service keeps the city connected

A revolutionary new WiFi service across London’s unique transport system helps keep the city connected.

Snapshot

Operational goals

TfL sought a boost to their current connectivity to meet the increased footfall and to enable WiFi access in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Virgin Media Business Digital Solution

We provided WiFi connectivity in underground stations across a 250 mile transport network.

Outcomes

Passengers now have superfast access to public WiFi at 120 underground tube stations across the capital.

 
 

Digital aims and operational goals

London’s world famous underground transport network is buried 220 feet below the city’s streets, making it one of the most challenging environments to introduce wireless connectivity. But with tourist numbers expected to rocket over the 2012 Olympic Games, Transport for London (TfL) decided that the time was right to provide an innovative new WiFi service for its London Underground customers.

Our role

Virgin Media Business worked closely with TfL and its strategic partners to introduce public WiFi to 120 stations across the tube network. The service was free to use during the Olympic Games right up until January 2013, and is now accessible to everyone thanks to reseller agreements with EE, Vodafone, O2 and Pay-as-you-Go services. The revolutionary service is not only improving the travel experience for the public, but it’s also the next step on a path to a better connected capital city.

With the 2012 Olympic Games fast approaching, TfL predicted that its transport network would be welcoming unprecedented numbers of passengers. Delivering connectivity across its underground network of stations and platforms was no easy task, but Virgin Media Business supported the delivery of the programme. They provided an end-to-end fibre network that delivered an innovative new WiFi service, on time and on budget. For the first time, citizens and visitors were given internet connectivity whilst travelling on the London Underground transport network.

The London Underground network is made up of 270 stations and 250 miles of track, and it’s no stranger to industry firsts. London is home to the world’s first metro. The Metropolitan line opened in 1863, making it the world’s oldest underground railway. So why not an underground WiFi service?

Over the past 150 years the network has expanded, and now consists of 11 lines catering for over 1.2 billion passenger journeys each year. Ahead of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it was estimated that during the event an extra 800,000 people would be travelling at peak times. London Underground and the Government decided that free public WiFi available underground would help to boost tourism and enhance the travelling experience. Commuters and visitors alike were soon given access to superfast connectivity, making it possible to send emails or even update Facebook from 220 feet below ground – quite a feat of engineering!

London Underground worked closely with Virgin Media Business to transform its current corporate Wide Area Network (WAN). An overlay was created for the existing network, over which the WiFi service would be delivered to the public at ticket halls and on platforms. The service is supported by a 1Gbit/s superfast network, ensuring that there was more than enough capacity to support thousands of passengers logging on at each station.

Working with TfL, Virgin Media Business’ team of engineers contributed to getting a total of 80 stations up and running in time for the beginning of July 2012. Flagship stations including Leicester Square, Liverpool Street, Oxford Circus, King’s Cross St. Pancras and Stratford were the first to receive WiFi connectivity. With more installations due to follow, there was no time to waste and everyone pulled together to ensure that everything went to plan.

Results

The service was so popular that it’s already been extended to a further 40 stations on the main underground routes, meaning 120 out of 270 stations are connected, giving commuters and visitors the opportunity to get more from their journey. The figures show that 64 million more journeys were made on the underground during 2012 compared to previous years, and thanks to the superfast fibre network, passengers were able to enjoy a truly connected London Underground experience.

But it doesn’t end there. Our commitment to giving more people access to underground connectivity is gathering speed. Now, it’s not only Virgin Mobile customers who are benefiting. Through Virgin Media’s MNO agreements, more people can keep on using the service, making the commuter experience better with as much internet access as possible. Since offering the WiFi service out to mobile operators the demand has been huge, and now customers of EE, Vodafone and O2 can benefit from Europe’s first WiFi underground too.

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