Mobile network coming to London Underground

We heard it was being talked about, but now it looks like a deal for a mobile network on the London Underground is around the corner.

According to Mobile Today, operators are 'just weeks away from signing a £150m investment deal' to build a mobile network on the Underground. However, the deal between Transport for London (TfL) and the big four operators is expected to be signed ever quicker, possibly within the next two weeks.

An operator source said: ‘We are very close to signing a deal to put mobile on the underground. The Mayor of London is keen for it [the network] to happen before the Olympics.’

The deal, which will see operators offer up both a 3G and 2G signal, involves signal ‘repeaters’ in each station, which will push the signal down the line. It will run through cables known as ‘leaky cables’.

Operators have apparently agreed to roll out the service on the Jubilee and Central lines: ‘You will see those at the start of the Olympics but the Mayor’s office are hoping that all lines will also be connected,’ the source added.

The sticking point seems to be over which company will run the service once installed. Putting it out to tender will mean missing the Olympics deadline, so someone will have to back down over their favoured company to keep things on track. According to that same source: ‘One of the companies signed up to lead on the technology side would operate on a yearly management fee. We don’t know how much that is. We are saying to the Mayor that we need to know how much this is going to cost each year.’

A TfL spokeswoman said: ‘TfL 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.’

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