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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Underground Mobile Phone Coverage delayed again

I've finally given up waiting for mobile phone coverage on the underground parts of the Tube. In 2006 there was announcement about a
trial of mobile phone use on the Waterloo & City Line. TfL said:

"It is our intention to commence a trial at a small number of Tube stations in late 2007 with the aim of introducing mobile phone and new technology provision at stations from summer 2008."

Photo by Alexander Boden

This never happened as it was a bit trickier than first thought. In 2008 we heard "The earliest the trial will begin is in April next year and if it is successful, will be extended across the Tube network. LU said the earliest date mobile phone coverage could be extended across the Tube network is mid-2009."

In May 2008, The Inquirer heard that mobile phones going underground was quietly shelved.

Now, thanks to Ianvisits, I heard that TfL made the following announcement yesterday. "London Underground tendered for a trial of mobile phones on the Waterloo and City line, but the market has yet to provide us with a credible proposal for enabling mobile phone use on the Tube."

The spokesperson continued "while it is technically possible to deploy mobile phone and data wireless solutions on the deep level Underground tunnels and stations, the unique nature and environment of the Tube mean that project costs would be prohibitively high at this time."

This is probably music to some people's ears, but for someone like me who's used to people using their mobiles on overground parts of the Underground, after all these promises, it's disappointing.

Celluar News said "A feasibility study undertaken last year found that having many thousands of mobile phones coming in and out of signal as passengers travelled between coverage zones at stations, and kept dropping signals in tunnels, would overload the phone networks."

It's another case where the London Underground is behind other subway networks. Mobile phone coverage works on many other underground systems including Glasgow, Beijing, Stockholm, Washington DC and Moscow. I wonder how "the unique physical and environmental constraints which the Tube presents" differ from those networks?

There is demand for the service too. LU conducted a survey in February 2007. Of the 1,007 respondents, 34% said that if it were available they would be very likely to use a mobile phone in all parts of the Tube, including trains and stations.

Anyway, the next time I head about mobiles being trialled on the Tube, I'll take it with a massive pinch of salt.

; Posted by Annie Mole Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Permalink COMMENT HERE Add to Stumble Upon