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Mobile operators ditch Tube plans

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London tube travellers have been saved from the menace of mobiles on the underground, as plans to extend mobile phone coverage onto trains have been canned.

The four operators were working with Chinese provider Huawei to extend coverage in time for the Olympics.

Everything Everywhere, O2, Three and Vodafone said: "We have been working closely with infrastructure partners and London Underground for some time with the hope of delivering mobile services to the London Underground and are disappointed that it will not be possible to deliver such services in time for next year’s Olympic games.

"As a group, we will continue to positively explore all other avenues available to us in order to provide a service at a later date."

According to the Huawei high level design document, sent to the Reg by a person familiar with the matter, the plan was to create a Shared Radio Access Network for GSM and UMTS based on Huawei SingleRAN products.

The document said voice and high speed data coverage would include 115 underground stations, 10 above-ground stations and the tunnels in between them.

Even at this early stage Huawei was warning of problems - space and power supplies at stations were both limited, and any heat created by the hardware had to be dealt with.

It warned: "Low ceiling heights, complex inter-connecting corridors and concourses, escalators and staircases, limits the choice of antennas and radiating power power elements and in tunnels have to have adequate and uniform signal coverage."

The Multi Operator Shared Radio Network would let the four operators use their own frequency but share transmission backhaul.

Dealing with huge rush hour peaks would also be an issue for the network.

Transport for London, and mayor Boris Johnson, had insisted that the installation should happen without financial assistance.

Huawei has complained that accusations it is too closely linked to the Chinese government and the People's Liberation Army are "unfounded and unproven".

Some 120 tube stations are in line to get Wi-Fi access by the end of the year in time for the Olympics.

Given the noise levels created by our aged underground trains and tracks, a data network for stations seems like a much better bet to us: and listening to inane mobile chatter would do little to improve an already unpleasant experience. ®

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