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Huawei Offers Mobile Network On Underground

David Gilbert


Huawei Offers Mobile Network On Underground

There are lots of things that can annoy a passenger on the London Underground. Crowds, sweltering heat, line closures and broken escalators all add to the frustration felt by many commuters. However the complete lack of a mobile phone service is one which to many makes no difference but for some would be a welcome addition.

Chinese mobile phone manufacturing giant, Huawei, has offered to install a mobile phone network on some parts of the Tube system as its gift to London in time for the Olympic Games. A report in the Sunday Times yesterday revealed that Huawei was looking to install the equipment on the Central, Jubilee and parts of the Piccadilly lines. It adds that Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, is backing the bid, which will have to be ratified by Thales, one of the Underground’s engineering contractors and Transport for London (TfL), which is chaired by Johnson. Operators such as Vodafone and O2 have agreed to pay for the installation of the equipment.

The report also quotes Patrick Mercer, MP and former chairman of the counter-terrorism subcommittee, who questioned the security implications of such a move: “In the event of a terrorist attack, putting a mobile network on he underground would be extremely helpful but it absolutely answers a terrorist’s prayers – to be able to detonate devices on the Underground. Whoever takes the decision has to be aware it is a double edged sword.” The reports mentions that the founder and CEO of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, is a former soldier in the People’s Liberation Army and has close links to the Chinese military.

Whatever the security implications, a mobile phone signal on the Tube would be a dream to some while others will be annoyed by the increased noise from ring tones and loud chatter as phone users try to out-shout the train. It is expected that contracts would be signed by this April with installation to begin soon after that.


February 21, 2011, 4:37 pm

Would be helpful if their 'overground' network was working properly last night...


February 21, 2011, 4:55 pm

This reminds me of when the intelligence community was warning specifically about Huawei last year:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t... (old archive, so still free)

A backdoor into all that tasty chatter of the finance sector would be quite sweet indeed.


February 21, 2011, 5:03 pm


As a Londoner, this is the LAST thing I would have been spending money on when it comes to The Underground. Stop-gap Air conditioning of the carriages in some description, would be a number one priority, followed by a complete overhaul of the entire system, line by line, widening of all the old tunnels and platforms and underground pathways / communal areas. This should be a cross-party commitment, above all politics and could be carried out over 20 years. Fat chance of any of that happening as greedy, short sighted, paranoid, ego-centric politicians can't even be bothered to see a 4 year commitment through when it comes to civic development.

I really do not look forward to having to listen to other people shouting into their mobiles about being late for dinner, (or any other VITAL conversation that can't wait 5 minutes!), on the already noisy, hot, sardined packed, unhygienic, over priced M25 underground. Nightmare.



February 21, 2011, 6:28 pm

Oh please tell me they're not going to do this... With the level of background noise on the tube in the deep lines you're going to end up with a load of people shouting into their phones just to be heard at the other end and an even worse time for passengers than you get at the moment.


February 21, 2011, 8:10 pm

Limit it to data only and no voice and it might be ok. Or limit it to platforms/stations and not the lines.

Energizer Bunny

February 21, 2011, 9:54 pm

I lived in Hong Kong for a while and it works fine there.


February 21, 2011, 10:22 pm

@Energizer Bunny

Absolutely, almost all places in Asia have it working very well, and in VERY crowded conditions too. But having said that none of the infrastructures are as old as London's, e.g. the Hong Kong MTR started in 1979 but London dates back to 1863!


February 22, 2011, 1:14 am

I hope to god this is limited to platforms only, that would be a great welcome addition. Meeting people when using the tube is a nightmare. However I'm totally with lifethroughalens on this... Under investment in the entire infrastructure is incredibly evident. Though undoubtedly hugely expensive, the Tube needs a MAJOR structural overhaul, surely an investment into a service with as many guaranteed customers as the tube is a sure win..

Im suprised investers aren't racing to get their hands on a contract

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