Boris Sets 2012 Deadline For Mobiles On The Tube

Mobile phones are set to arrive on the Underground by 2012, but mobile operators are being asked to share the installations costs

One of the last bastions of non-mobile phone coverage is set to fall in two years time, after Mayor Boris Johnson set a 2012 deadline for mobile phones on the London Underground.

For years, London commuters have had to endure cramped and overcrowded London Underground trains, and now they will have to put up with chatty passengers to boot, as a result of efforts to extend blanket mobile signal coverage below street level.

The plan to extend the 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 a mobile network to the transport network, but the plans were shelved in 2009.

Bashing Heads

But now, according to the Sunday Telegraph, Mayor Boris Johnson is preparing to announce that virtually all of the City’s Tube network will have mobile phone reception by the 2012 Olympics.

And he has reportedly taken it upon himself to “bash heads together” in the mobile phone industry to make sure the plan goes ahead this time. To this end he is pushing the mobile phone operators to share the estimated £100 million cost of installing mobile coverage deep underground.

It is understood that Johnson is also pushing for mobile coverage for the London to Paris Eurostar service.

The move comes at a time when most local government and public sector institutions are bracing themselves for tough cost-saving measures.

It is believed that mobile coverage will be provided between stations, by installing long transmitters on the top of the Tube’s tunnels, along with antennas placed at each end of the train carriage.

Yet the installation of blanket mobile phone coverage is likely to be tricky, given the conditions and the sheer density of users within such a confined location. Back in July Transport For London (TfL) confirmed that it had briefly suspended its London Underground Departure Board (Train Prediction) data, after it was swamped by “overwhelming demand by apps.”

Network Strain

That crash mirrors the increasing strain being felt on mobile networks, thanks to the increasing popularity of smartphones.

O2 for example blamed the data strain caused by smartphones such as the iPhone on a number of network failures last year. O2 has since scrapped its unlimited data bundles, as have many other operators.