Londoners could soon be able to get signal on the Tube, using underground mobile transmitters from Huawei
Huawei is close to signing a deal that would see the Chinese telecoms manufacturer providing equipment for the London Underground’s mobile network.
The company is reportedly willing to invest £50 million on installing transmitters on the top of tube tunnels as a ‘gift’, in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The network will be installed and maintained by electronic systems company Thales, with British mobile operators expected to foot the bill.
The Central and Jubilee lines – which connect central London with Stratford’s Olympic park – are being prioritised ahead of the games, and coverage may be extended to other parts of the Tube network after 2012.
Boris’s 2012 deadline
Plans to extend mobile networks to the Underground have been mooted for years now, but the high installation cost has always led to those plans being shelved. Back in 2005 for example, then-Mayor Ken Livingstone asked for pitches on how best to bring mobile coverage to the transport network, but the project was abandoned in 2009.
However, last year London Mayor Boris Johnson (left) set the 2012 deadline for mobile access on the London Underground, claiming to have taken it upon himself to “bash heads together” in the mobile phone industry to make sure the plan went ahead. The entire system is expected to cost in excess of £100 million.
London Underground has not yet finalised the contract for the mobile network, but Huawei is believed to be the only equipment provider currently in the running, according to the Financial Times, although other manufacturers were also considered. Huawei was unable to comment on the project, but said the UK was an “important market” for the company.
Wi-Fi at Charing Cross
Moves have already been made in implementing a Wi-Fi network on the London Underground. On 1 November, BT began a six month trial allowing customers to log on to the Internet from laptops and phones at Charing Cross Tube station.
The service is free for BT’s five million broadband customers and for BT Openzone customers. Customers with O2, Vodafone, Tesco Mobile, and Orange who have Wi-Fi minutes in their contracts can also to use the BT Openzone network, while others can purchase a BT Openzone voucher online.
“An ever growing commuter populace has been clamouring to be able to check their emails and browse the net whilst on the go,” said the Mayor of London’s transport adviser Kulveer Ranger at the time. “This is an important step towards seeing how this could be achieved.”
Boris Johnson is reportedly looking into providing Wi-Fi hotspots at bus stops, and the Channel Tunnel could also have a mobile phone network installed across the entire 31.4 mile length of the tunnel in time for the Olympics.
Huawei backs out of 3Leaf deal
In other news, it has also been reported that Huawei has pulled out of a controversial deal to acquire assets and technology from 3Leaf Systems, following a review by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States. It was reportedly suggested by “some relevant parties in the US” that the deal could damage national security.
“Huawei will remain committed to long-term investment in the United States. The significant impact and attention that this transaction has caused were not what we intended. Rather, our intention was to go through all the procedures to reveal the truth about Huawei,” said the company in a statement on Saturday.