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Boris wants mobile phones on tube by Olympics

Mon Sep 20 2010, 16:43

IT'S HEAVEN OR HELL depending on your point of view but it would seem that London Mayor Boris Johnson wants to see mobile phone access made available on the London subway network.

For visitors to the capital city the underground tube is a bewildering place of tunnels and people dashing past like they have five minutes to live, so being able to phone a friend and say, "eh, we're a bit lost we'll be late" would seem like a good idea. And according to a report tube users will be able to do that before the 2012 Olympics.

Johnson has asked five mobile operators - 3 UK, O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone - to pool financial and technical resources for a London Underground (LU) mobile radio access network (RAN). The RAN would see coverage enabled by transmitters and receivers positioned on tube tunnel roofs, with antennas deployed on the ends of each carriage.

Each carriage would become a mobile phone microcell, with voice and data backhauled out of the tube network with standard network cabling attached to the radio base stations. But will this include 3G or is it just the world wide wait that is GPRS? People liking the idea of mobile phone access on the tube might want to consider whether the always online lifestyle they crave would actually be delivered.

For The INQUIRER readers and staff, living in London every day would certainly see them experience the joy of standing in jampacked carriages with all sorts of people shouting into their handsets, "we're at Bank, there's a signalling problem, yes, again, yes, like yesterday, and the day before, I'll be late into the office".

Enabling such happy experiences is going to cost "hundreds of millions of pounds", according to the Telegraph online article, and this isn't the first time mobile phone access on the Underground has been mooted, or is that threatened?

In 2007, Transport for London put out a tender for a six-month mobile phone trial for Bank and Waterloo, but the trial didn't happen and plans to roll out mobile access were shelved in 2009 after supplier proposals were deemed "not commercially viable". Or maybe network operators' senior staff living and working in London simply couldn't stomach the morning experience despite the potential uptick in revenues.

At the time the London Underground strategy and service development director, Richard Parry said, "LU recognise that there is now growing demand for mobile coverage to be extended to deep-level sections of the tube."

However, elsewhere mobile phone access has been successfully rolled out. In 2008, Glasgow's subway system was enabled for mobile phone access. Well that's alright then, we reckon, they can just hold the Olympics up there instead. µ



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