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Channel Tunnel mobile coverage touted

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Channel Tunnel passengers will be able to continue chatting unabated while being whisked along 45 metres below the seabed, just in time for the 2012 Olympics.

That’s according to The Telegraph. Eurotunnel wonks aren't confirming anything until the official announcement which, we understand, will come tomorrow from the French Ministry. But it looks as though international travellers will be able to make calls from underground before domestic ones.

Connecting up the Channel Tunnel isn't as hard as it sounds: it's only 31 miles long and there's an access tunnel between the two rail lines which has plenty of room for backhaul connectivity. The problems are more logistical than technical - who runs the network, who is roaming and when, and how to avoid the network interfering with domestic providers on either side of the Dover Strait, but those can be resolved if anyone cares enough.

Which they haven't really. Travellers are only underground for around 20 minutes or so, and many of them never get out of their cars (which are driven onto wagons) so it's no great hardship to be momentarily disconnected. The decision clearly has more to do with publicity than practicality - Eurotunnel wants to highlight how much better it is than the airlines, which still make passengers turn off their phones.

The Telegraph sniffily notes that the French have mobile coverage on the Paris Metro, and that the English aren't polite enough to be trusted with the ability to use mobile phones on mass transport, though in fact it's the age and depth of London's tube that makes deployment so difficult.

So tomorrow there'll be a proper press release, probably accompanied by photographs of a (no doubt very polite) French politician making a call from deep under the sea bed - until then we'll have to speculate that such calls will be overpriced, leading to the service being underused. ®

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