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London Transport Decides Against Mobile Phone Coverage on Underground Platforms

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Note -- this news article is more than a year old.

London's underground railway network has decided to delay long planned implementations of mobile phone coverage on the network, citing a lack of "credible proposals" from suppliers.

London Underground was due to test mobile phone services on a short stretch of the network last year to see if the service was commercially viable - although the trial did not take place. The Waterloo & City line had been selected for the trial as it is characterised by deep-level tunnels that are unconnected to the rest of the Tube network thereby providing a confined environment for the trial to take place.

A TfL spokesperson said "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."

When LU originally announced in March 2005 that it was seeking expressions of interest from potential suppliers for mobile phone coverage on the Tube it was on the basis that coverage in tunnels would be excluded. A feasibility study undertaken last year found that having many thousands of mobile phones coming in and out of signal as passengers traveled between coverage zones at stations, and kept dropping signals in tunnels would overload the phone networks.

The feasibility study was undertaken as the original consultation with suppliers identified that the sheer complexity of introducing such a system needed to be fully understood due to the unique physical and environmental constraints which the Tube presents.

The TfL spokesperson added that "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."

Various other underground railway networks offer mobile phone coverage - such as Glasgow, Washington DC, Stockholm, Beijing and Moscow to name just a few.

Earlier this year, the London Underground did however deploy a TETRA based radio network for use by staff and emergency services. The Airwave system - will be made available to the police initially, and later to other emergency services and was a key recommendation of the report following the terrorist attacks in London a couple of years ago.

Updated 16th Mar 13:11 to correct earlier note that the trial had taken place.

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