No 2012 Mobile Coverage on the Tube

There will be no mobile coverage on the London Underground in time for the 2012 Olympics, according to a report in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph.

The report says that the UK’s four mobile operators have shelved the scheme because it was impossible to get it ready in time. This in spite of the fact that Chinese telecoms giant Huwaei had offered to provide up to £50m worth of technology as a gift from one Olympic nation to another, representing one third of the estimated £150m cost of the project. The report adds that the shelving of the plans makes it unlikely that mobile coverage will ever make it onto the Underground system.

Comments from readers on the piece are mixed, with some applauding the fact that the tube will remain a mobile-free zone, while others find it hard to believe that mobilising the Underground can be that difficult. One says:
“Would it seriously cost £150,000,000 to install some directional aerials and transmitters? I bet Maplins has got all the equipment and a bunch of university graduate engineers would have it done in a few months for some six-packs and a packet of Marlbro (sic).”

Mobile coverage is offered on many Underground systems, and not just in the Far East. In Europe, passengers travelling on the Underground in Berlin, Barcelona and Amsterdam, can all use their mobiles with impunity.

Our view is that, with London being announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympics in 2007, there were five years to make this happen, or if you err on the side of caution, four if it took the operators and the powers that be a few months to think it might possibly be a good idea. It seems inconceivable that that was not enough time to carry out the work required. Indeed, while we claim no expertise in the subject, it seems hard to believe that the work could not be completed in the 483 days that remain until the 2012 Games open.

If the Telegraph’s story had appeared today, you might think it was an April Fools piece. Sadly not.