London’s Underground transport network is to receive widespread mobile phone coverage as Huawei bids to install transmitters on the tube system ahead of the 2012 Olympics.
Dubbed “a gift from one Olympic nation to another,” Chinese firm Huawei, makers of Three’s popular Mi-Fi device, has announced it is looking to supply the London Underground with a mobile phone coverage system, estimated to cost around £50 million, free of charge.
Network providers O2 and Vodafone are reported to be pairing up with Huawei to cover installation costs with money to be recouped by increased user activity and maintenance fees.
Although keen to transform the capital’s commuter black spot into an extension of users’ business and social communication arms, Transport for London has reiterated its concerns that the expenditure of installing such a system should not be placed on taxpayers or increased ticket fares.
A spokesperson for TFL said: "Transport for London and the Mayor of London are currently in discussion with mobile phone operators and other suppliers about the potential provision of mobile phone services on the deep Tube network.” They added: "Given the financial pressures on TfL's budgets, any solution would need to be funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare or taxpayers. Discussions are ongoing."
Despite offering widespread communication to millions of tube users, Conservative MP Patrick Mercer has acted as captain buzz kill, highlighting possible dangers of the planned service. Although dubbing the underground mobile network “extremely helpful,” Mercer announced the service, that would mimic those already in place in Hong Kong and Paris, would “absolutely answers a terrorist's prayers,” offering a means of detonating devices on the Underground network.
Would you welcome phone coverage on the London Underground or resent the emergence of mindless phone chatter making your commute even less enjoyable? Share your thoughts via the T3 Twitter and Facebook feeds.