According to the Financial Times, Chinese manufacturer Huawei is on the verge of sealing a deal to provide a mobile network to the London Underground, just in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Negotiations are said to be “ongoing”.
“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,” reads a Transport for London statement. “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.”
Huawei is thought to be the only provider still in the running. “Due to business confidentiality, we are unable to comment on the project at this point, but I can confirm that we are involved in the bidding process. The UK is an important market for Huawei.”
Such a network has been discussed for years, but was previously dismissed as being too expensive. Indeed, Huawei would provide its equipment at a huge discount, as part of a wider plan to break into the UK.
If the bid is successful, the network will be installed and maintained by Thales. The work will take place at night, and must be completed before March 2012. The Central and Jubilee lines (which connect central London with Stratford’s Olympic park) are top priority.
BT is already running a Wi-Fi trial at Charing Cross station.