London set for mobile coverage on Underground trains

London underground

The French telecoms firm Alcatel-Lucent is in talks to install mobile and broadband connectivity across the entire Tube network. The deal would include London Underground trains, as well as the Tube stations, which are already scheduled to receive wi-fi access later this year reports The Telegraph.

Ben Verwaayen, chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent, disclosed that the company would start by introducing broadband and mobile phone reception. “Phase one is that you can communicate under circumstances where today you can’t.” he said. “You can’t use your iPad today everywhere in the London Underground. You should, so that’s what we’re doing. We help to make sure that the coverage is there. You sit there in the train and you want to work in the train. That’s what we’re doing.”

After that roll-out is complete, Alcatel-Lucent will introduce specialist features designed to help commuters get around the capital. It would be similar to the facility at some bus stops whereby users can find out how long they have to wait by sending a text requesting information or pointing their smartphone at a code printed on the stop.

“We’re going to allow you to sit in the train and think, if I make this connection where could I go? So you make a personal travel plan. That’s the next phase.”

Mr Verwaayen declined to comment on the timing or cost of the roll-out, but indicated that an Alcatel-Lucent deal was “not a hypothetical, it is coming”.
The boost in productivity, as workers to check their emails and make calls on the move, would be worth around £1.1bn to the British economy, Alcatel-Lucent claimed.

It would also draw a line under a series of failed attempts to introduce mobile coverage to the Underground. In 2011, the Chinese network Huawei offered to make the £50m upgrade as a gift to the British government. However, the deal fell apart in the face of public scepticism about the Chinese company’s motives. The company is routinely accused of being able to use its network for spying, a charge which it denies.

The Alcatel-Lucent roll-out follows plans to install wireless broadband access at tube stations, announced earlier this year. The service, which will be paid for by Virgin Media and also uses Alcatel-Lucent technology, will launch at 80 London stations by July, starting with Oxford Circus, Stratford, Liverpool Street, Leicester Square and King’s Cross.