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TfL is bringing mobile coverage to the London Underground

LONDON COMMUTERS might want to pick up some noise-cancelling headphones as passengers might soon be able to use their phones while travelling on the tube.

This sounds like a bad thing to us, but the reported move will see London catching up to New York, Tokyo, Seoul, Berlin and Paris which all offer mobile reception on underground services.

The Financial Times has the scoop, and reports that Transport for London (TfL) and London mayor Sadiq Khan – who has pledged to improve the city’s communications network – will invite bids from will telecoms companies after next week’s general election.

According to the paper, three people familiar with the plans said a ‘number of companies were vying for the work’, with BAI Communications, Wireless Infrastructure Group and possibly Arqiva named as potential bidders.

Related: ORG wants answers on the TfL WiFi tracking scandal

The FT notes that BT-owned EE, which has already been in discussions with TfL as part of the Emergency Services Network contract run by EE, will likely also throw its hat into the ring, along with equipment makers Huawei and Airvana.

It’s not yet clear how the whole thing would work, but the FT‘s report notes that building the network could cost hundreds of millions of pounds, noting that TfL might enter into a revenue sharing deal with the telecoms companies involved.

If you’re a London commuter and was hoping that this was nothing but a rumour, TfL has only gone and bloody confirmed it.

“We are keen to offer full mobile phone coverage for our customers,” a TfL spokesperson said to the FT. “The introduction of this would need to be commercially viable and would follow engagement with staff and customers.”   

William Newton, EMEA director at WiredScore, seems to think it’s a good thing.

“While a number of stations along the TfL network already offer users WiFi services, full mobile phone coverage will enable users to fully make the most of their time on the tube – whether that’s checking Facebook or replying to emails,” he said.

“And with such vast lengths of time on the underground begrudgingly spent by commuters across the city every day, there’s no question that this will be a very welcome improvement to TfL’s service.” µ

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