back to article Tube to get phone coverage by the Olympics

London's tube network will become mobile-friendly by next year, according to Mobile Magazine, which reckons a contract is only weeks away. London taxes will be subsidising this contract. That contract is said to be worth £150m, which will be spent by the network operators to provide both 2G and 3G coverage to the entire …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Alastair Dodd 1
    Thumb Down


    you muppet are you really going to spend more money buggering up the Tube more?

    Stations I can see voice coverage fine but apart from that don't bother.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Put the miniBTS on the train itself

    The solution here will be to put a mini-BTS on the train itself.

    It poses a set of major architectural challenges though. Most BSCs (and 3G RNCs) are not design with the adjacencies between the different cells and handovers being so fluid. They are rigid and pre-configured).

    Whoever does it can after that can pretty much monopolise the "Cell on the train service worldwide". It also can be reused in femto space and so on. So in fact there is a lot of money in here if someone is willing to put the up front investment. It is just not where you expect it to be.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More Boris uninformed ramblings

    £150m would probably only provide coverage on 1 line (there are 9), planning and installation for the similarly sized Connect project took almost 10 years so forget any coverage for the Olympics. It cannot piggy-back the existing infrastructure which only supports RF up to 500MHz.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    The sooner the better!

    Can't wait! Voice calls will be impossible with the sustained 100dB background noise that comes standard with a London commute. However, at least I will be able to text work that I will be half an hour late again because we've been stuck between Knightsbridge and Hyde Park Corner for the last 20 minutes and do some email in the mean time...

    Please do Central and Piccadilly first.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      So how do you connect your femto cell to the rest of the network? you're in a train in a cast iron tunnel, you still need 100's km of radiating cable.

      1. MrBrie

        The train is already connected to a network...

        It's powered by electricity. So just develop a hacked version of DSL running over the powered 3rd rail. Simples.

      2. M Gale

        There's already cable that runs for at least as long as the tracks....

        "So how do you connect your femto cell to the rest of the network? you're in a train in a cast iron tunnel, you still need 100's km of radiating cable."'s called, errr, the tracks. They're electric, you know?

        And afaik most of the tunnels are lined with concrete and brick, not cast iron. Not that this matters when you're under several metres of terra firma.

    2. Tom 35 Silver badge


      Train stops.

      Everyone pulls out their cell

      Network falls over and dies.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      "There are 9 lines"

      Not quite that straightforward. Much of the track on a couple of lines is above ground (so gets signals currently), whilst much of the rest is shared between lines. The Met line, f'rinstance, is open-air from Finchley Road out to Amersham, Watford & Uxbridge, shares with the Jubilee line from Finchley Road to Baker St, then shares with the Circle round to Aldgate.

      So that's one of the nine lines covered with no specific kit straight away.

      1. handle

        Met and Jubilee don't share

        Just because the Metropolitan and Jubilee lines share the same route between Finchley Road and Baker Street doesn't mean they share the same tunnels and so they cannot share the same radio signal.

  5. ptpeetee

    Return on investment

    "There's also the question of what return operators can expect from their investment."

    You what?? surely operators can figure this out every time they put up a mast can't they? There are more than 55,000 base stations in the UK so don't tell me someone hasn't tried to figure out the maths.

  6. R J Tysoe
    Thumb Down

    Great, more witless blabbering on the Tube

    Must remember to put a jammer on my shopping list.

  7. s. pam

    What a fucking joke, ever been to CH?

    Look I don't mind the mobie operators ripping us off, after all we're British, but even the Swiss couldn't get away with this. Boris -- get a cluebag PLEASE......

  8. Richard Gadsden 1

    Why not just put WiFi on the trains?

    If they put 2G/3G cells in each station and WiFi on the trains, you have data access everywhere much more easily than moving cells in the trains and much more cheaply than fixed cells along the lines.

    No-one in their right minds will make voice calls on the tube anyway, so the only facility you don't offer that way is texting - and people could use data-to-text if they had to anyway.

  9. Lee Dowling Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Data, SMS

    Don't care about phone calls (hell, ban them on the trains for all I care) but it would be handy to do SMS and / or data on the tube, and a lot less troublesome - no real-time requirement there, it can literally wait until it hits the next cell before it sends/receives the data from the train and signal loss / conversion isn't a big deal so long as there's a cell somewhere on the train that can queue things up properly until signal returns.

    Hell, they do it on the First Great Eastern trains already - there's no reason you can't extend this to the tube and I bet a lot of people would be willing to pay an expensive tariff in order to do it. Just one caveat - DO NOT text me when I join that network to tell me prices / offers / etc. If you do, I may have to find your cell equipment on the train and join it to the middle rail with a nice iron crowbar.

  10. Scott Hatton

    Paris Metro

    Mobile voice calls have been working on the Paris Metro for years. What do they use? Tunnels definitely aren't as deep (most are cut and shut), but the tunnels aren't huge.

    I can't believe the tax payer will foot the bill. Don't the mobile networks look after the network, and we pay them???

  11. skipper
    Thumb Down

    Why bother?

    Providing coverage on platforms shouldn't be too difficult, and relatively easy to support (in comparison to the tunnels). And the intermittent signal you'd get if you were on a tube would be fine for text's and email syncing.

    Voice calls on train would be difficult and down-right annoying for fellow passengers. Plus I enjoy the fact that the missus/work/etc can't call me while I'm on the tube...

    Anyway, there is no way they'd get coverage set-up in time for the Olympics, they'd be lucky to have finished the planning and profit-escalation phase.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    Leaky feeder for one large cell per tunnel?

    I am wondering, usually a mobile cell is a couple of kilometres wide in a circle around the base station. Can't they use a 'leaky feeder' to essentially create one single cell along the entire tunnel section of a line?

    Basically a cell not wider than a few metres but ten kilometres long.

    The current 'Connect Radio' is a digital two-way radio system on the Tube and uses exactly the same method, just on a different frequency and only open to London Underground staff and emergency services. If you look closely from the train at the tunnel wall you can see two shiny kilometres long wires along the entire tunnel acting as an antenna.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      My thoughts exactly

      A leaky feeder should do the trick.

      For those who don't know, it is, well sort of, a long wire with niks in the insulation.

    2. handle

      Those shiny wires aren't aerials

      Well they might be now, but their original function is to allow a telephone handset to be clipped to them for emergency communication and to cut the traction power when an electrical load is detected.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Too much traffic

      Far, far too much traffic for one cell to handle. Connect radio is low traffic and has a limited number of users, unlike the tube...

  13. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Paris Metro

    They mostly aren't really 'tunnels' - the metro ones are at least 2 and mostly 3-4 tracks wide, they are square, straight and concrete. All you have to do is mount a directional antenna in the top corner and point it down the tunnel.

    When there is nowhere to mount an antenna without it being wiped out by the next tube train, the tunnels are bendy and most of the early ones have iron liners it becomes a bit of an advanced exercise in RF design

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Britain becominga bit of a devlopuing nation

    Had that working here in Barcelona since i moved here nearly 3 years ago.

  15. Neil Charles

    It's just for data. Tube trains are too noisy for voice calls.

    You sure people won't just shout?



    "PI - CA - DILLY"



    Very glad I'll be gone before then.

    And you are kidding about subsidised, right? Stick wifi on the trains and charge for it. Job done.

  16. Mike Richards Silver badge

    If people really must telephone on the train

    Then there should be a red cast iron telephone box mounted in a separate carriage.

    Users will form an orderly queue and follow the instructions provided to talk to the operator. Once they are 'put through' in the modern parlance, and so long as the operator is satisfied that the recipient is not working class, the user will deposit their shilling pieces in the slot and press the A button.

    Calls will last no longer than two minutes and must always be terminated with a cheery 'goodbye'.

    Failure to obey these common sense rules will result in the automatic release of the box's resident alcoholic.

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      This is very worrying

      If I'm in a tube that's jam wedged with passengers and someone starts shouting like that right by my ear, I'm very worried that it might distract me so much that in trying to cover my ears I'd lose my grip on the handhold and my 16 stone will go crashing into him as the train lurches..

  17. Anonymous Coward

    "I'm on the..." <rips heart out>

    No jury will convict.

  18. Juan Inamillion

    @Paris Metro

    Yes and the other thing about the Paris Metro is it's very quiet and anyone on the phone speaks very quietly, often behind their hand.

    I believe it's called 'consideration for one's fellow travellers'.

    That's the reason it will be hell on the London Tube.

  19. Frantisek Janak
    Thumb Up


    Station coverage should be enough, it works just fine on the Prague's tube- the train stops at a station and I've got just enough time to send a message or load a new page. Good for reading El Reg.. or RPS.

  20. batfastad
    Jobs Horns


    The max journey time I bet most people do on the tube is 45 mins. Any longer than that then you're probably starting from an overground station anyway.

    Also only in stations? Generally (apart from in disruption) you only have to wait 3-5 mins for a train.

    I like the fact that I can't be contacted for half an hour or so.

    There's more important things I want my money spent on, air conditioning perhaps. Or a new hospital, school or something.

  21. JaitcH

    Crazy! ALL taxpayers PAY so a privileged FEW can call? Britain is nuts.

    Why is it that other countries actually SELL the rights to cell companies to place their signals in subways yet London is going to PAY someone to do it.

    Something is wrong. Or the thinking is wrong.

    The technology is simple: lengths of 'leaky co-ax' antenna fed from technology cubicles at each station. Stations and those 'American Wear Wolf in London' passages and stairs can be covered by access point antennae or yet more leaky co-ax.

    The corporate infrastructure is more tricky. Often a holding company, owned by the railway operator, owns the infrastructure and simply rents access to it by anyone wanting to place signals in the tunnels.

    Why it has to be tied to the Olympics is beyond me, no one seemed to be too unhappy before cells took over our lives.

    There is absolutely NO reason for the taxpayer to be paying ANYTHING!

  22. Neal 5


    Perhaps they'll fit the aircon at the same time. Let me think now, in summer 2012, would I rather aircon, or chat some bullshit about bullshit with some shit.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Just over 600 days to the Olympics

    Am I the only one who seriously doubts it will be done in time?

  24. skevmeister

    Boris spend the money on something useful


    As much as techno geek I am, even I don't care that for 30 Minutes, I can't surf the web take phone calls, send texts, read the internet.

    What I would like is my tube fares to go down, to not feel like a sardine every morning, except somebody forgets the oil.

    To0 not need to think about haveing spare shirts at work to change into because I have travelled on the tube in summer [air conditiong that's on would be good]

    Having enough Tubes so that when you do finally start the Olympics, that I can get on one. After all it's Londers and the commuters who are paying for the big party, so at least look after them,

    Rather than the worrying about wireless for the olympics why not give every commuter on the tube travel while the olympics are on free travel.

  25. Rob Davis
    Thumb Up

    Better terrorism co-ordination (maybe not)? Bluetooth proximity, CBS, digital powerline picocells?

    I'm in favour of mobile reception on the underground but my fear is that it might enable more terrorism co-ordination, of planted mobile-phone triggered devices and violence. You're welcome to dispel my fears.

    Other world cities don't appear to have such concerns, as those who live in those postings here illustrate, Hong Kong being another example. But perhaps our foreign policy and recent tragic events on the underground continue to place London under threat compared to those other cities.

    As how to deploy a system - delivering the connectivity via the tube's powerlines being one mentioned here. These could be connected to a Vodafone-like (don't work for them BTW) suresignal femto/picocell on the tube carriages themselves.

    CBS Outdoor plasma screens and tube tunnel projectors displaying video advertising, might be the other delivery system of the mobile data - a data feed is already in place to serve streaming video for these so perhaps this service has spare capacity, and again, be fitted with a Pico femto/picocell for GSM/3G reception, fitted to the projection and screens themselved.

    Funding may also be possible via this CBS Outdoor route, as they sell advertising.

    Another funding route might be with bluetooth proximity message whereby commuters receive targetted advertising via bluetooth messages on their phones.

    Also 2D barcodes on in-tube advertisments linking to special offers such as Groupon.

    'Wonder it sees any such opportunities here to grow its publishing business?

    Interesting social network mashups with proximity/NFC Oyster style touchless built into new phones also another option.

  26. micheal

    Please Boris

    Spend it on stopping pavement cyclists, spend it on cycle lanes, spend it on something useful to Londoners, not useful to the thirty idiots who find it impossible not to spend 5 minutes without their phone.....hell at Highbury (which you know well and I seen you) the moan about mputting more trains on, when it's a 30 second gap between them. Get priorities right or we'll have "spend it on my mates" Ken back again

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019