• Newcastle to Edinburgh route gets connectivity boost thanks to LNER‑O2 UK partnership.

UK rail connectivity on the right track with O2 partnership

UK rail connectivity on the right track with O2 partnership

Source: O2 UK

Telefónica UK (O2 UK) partnered with the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) to improve network coverage on 45 miles of railway between Newcastle and Edinburgh. Planning permission has been approved for one site, with up to another twelve set to be considered.

The collaboration, supported by rail and telecoms infrastructure specialist Railsite Telecom, opts for track‑side infrastructure to boost signals rather than ‘on‑rail’ solutions. So‑called ‘off‑rail’ infrastructure solutions, where masts are placed at strategic locations along a route rather than on individual trains, is seen as easier, quicker, and less costly, while also benefitting rural communities in proximity to the route with improved connectivity.

The planned rail‑side infrastructure will be 5G‑ready, purportedly complementing O2 UK’s effort to bring next‑generation connectivity to Newcastle city centre. O2 UK launched 5G in the city in March 2020 (Telefónicawatch, #140), and is looking to expand this with further coverage at the city’s Central Station in 2021. As with 5G launches across the UK, coverage is limited to high‑traffic areas and transport hubs.

The UK rail industry is looking to develop use‑cases for 5G. LNER itself launched LNER Future Labs, a ten‑week programme for five startups to develop, test, and scale solutions. O2 UK has an existing partnership with Network Rail.