Chinese telecoms firm Huawei has offered to provide a mobile network worth £50m to the London Underground for free and have it live in time for the Olympics in 2012 according to a report in the Sunday Times. The entire system is expected to cost more than £100m with Vodafone and O2 reportedly paying for the installation work to be done by Thales. Huawei would be looking to make a return on a maintenance contract for the system, and this discounted system would give them a foot in the door to the UK mobile market.
Boris Johnson, London's Mayor, previously announced last year that London would see mobile coverage on the tube in time for the Olympics. The details released yesterday push the city one step closer to this dream, although no deal has yet been struck.
"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.
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."Transport for London spokesperson
Priority for deployment will be given to the Central and Jubilee lines which run to the Olympic park at Stratford, with other lines likely to receive service after the 2012 games. If a deal is signed before early April, work will begin in the summer to be completed before March 2012. The tight deadline will create a challenge for installation, particularly in the unique environment of the deep-level underground lines. Small cells would be deployed in stations and tunnels with equipment on trains which will connect to these via a cable that will run above trains in tunnels.