I May Be Late and WiFi on the London Underground

So a lot of people are asking me about how I May Be Late will deal with the addition of WiFi to the London underground this summer.

As a tube user I really welcome this move from TFL. It has taken a significant amount of time to make this dream a reality and I’m sure TFL have been working very hard trying to find a partner and finally trying to get all the equipment installed across the network. As far as I understand it, the WiFi will be free over the course of the summer, but will eventually become a paid only service. They will offer status information for free to all users, but any other access will require a fee.

There are a couple of points I’d like to make;

Firstly, not all stations will be covered by WiFi. They will be rolling this service out across network a few stations at a time, but I don’t imagine that all stations will get it. Consider those stations at the ends of the network. They may just focus on some of the busier stations.

Secondly, it won’t be available in the tunnels or, necessarily the trains. Platforms, corridors and ticket halls will be where the coverage will be concentrated. Since a tube train is a steel box, I cannot imagine the signal would be very good inside, except, perhaps whilst the doors are open. I’m no WiFi expert, but I know phones don’t work well in elevators. Faraday cage and all that.

Thirdly, what sort of bandwidth will be available? If there are, say, 100 phones on a platform during rush hour, they will all be vying for connection to the WiFi (even just automatic connections). I’m hoping they’ve a) got the hardware to cope with this and b) have the bandwidth to deliver the data!

For me, I see the addition of WiFi to the underground as something I can leverage. Have users connected mean they can check my app or other tube apps for updates on the network, rather than relying on just the TFL data. Giving users access to information can only be a good thing.

My app will continue to offer benefits to those stuck between stations or those that just cannot get a signal to send that email. My apps ability to send text messages will still be relevant until they provide GSM signal underground.

The big lesson from this is that advancements shouldn’t be seen as complete negatives. A lot of people seem to think that WiFi will render a lot of tube apps useless, but I think those apps can only benefit for being connected and once they continue to provide useful information and useful function, people would have no reason to stop using them