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.