A common refrain in the wireless world is “everything, everywhere”, but up until now there’s been one place wireless communications has not reached: underground.

When Virgin Media came to us with the opportunity to work together to design and build a Wi-Fi network that would bring mobile broadband to passengers of the London Underground subway system, we jumped at the chance.

Working together with Transport for London, the transportation authority for all London mass transit systems, Cisco and Virgin designed and built a Wi-Fi network that would not only bring a reliable broadband signal to London Underground’s stations, but would be robust and durable enough to withstand the less-than-ideal environment existing under the streets of London.

In addition, this new network had to be “elastic”, in the sense that it had to be able to rapidly manage wide swings in traffic loads, with massive amounts of Internet traffic flowing in and out of the network during rush hours as people entered and left the stations.

The construction of this network required close collaboration between the three organizations, and no small amount of faith, as nothing like this had ever been attempted.  Add to that the incredible pressure to perform on the biggest stage, as millions of tourists descended on London this past summer, most of them with multiple mobile devices, all of them reliant on “The Tube” to transport them from event to event.

Bringing Wi-Fi underground enabled visitors to quickly find train maps, schedules, and routes to events, while also providing regular London commuters the ability to check e-mail, update social networking sites, and keep up with the summer’s events while waiting on the next train.

As you’ll see by this short video, I think we can judge this grand undertaking an unqualified success.  The network has worked well and consumer acceptance has been beyond anyone’s expectations.   We’d like to extend our thanks and gratitude to our intrepid partners at Virgin and TfL and we look forward to even more groundbreaking (no pun intended) projects in the future.


For more information on Cisco’s Mobile Internet solutions, including Wi-Fi, please go to www.cisco.com/go/mobile.