Chinese firm offers phone network for London subway commuters

February 21st, 2011 - 1:18 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 21 (IANS) A Chinese company has offered to install a phone network estimated to cost 50 million pounds for subway commuters here as a gift before the 2012 Olympics.According to Daily Mail Sunday, London Mayor Boris Johnson is backing the idea but security chiefs fear the move could increase the risk of terrorism.

“In the event of a terrorist attack, putting a mobile network on the underground would be extremely helpful,” said Patrick Mercer MP and former chairman of the counter-terrorism subcommittee.

“But it absolutely answers a terrorist’s prayers - to be able to detonate devices on the Underground,” he added.

According to Sunday Times mobile transmitters would be installed along the ceilings of tunnels so that commuters can make and receive calls for the first time on the Underground.

Huawei, the Chinese company, first needs to reach an agreement with Thales, one of the Underground’s engineering contractors and TfL (Transport for London), which is chaired by Johnson.

It is believed Thales have been working closely with the Chinese company to create transmitters which will not increase heat during the summer months.

Mobile phone giants Vodafone and O2 have both agreed to pay for installation work while Huawei, one of the world’s biggest telecoms equipment firms, would hope to make an income from maintenance fees.

The deal is expected to be finalised in April and it is likely the Central, Jubilee and parts of the Piccadilly line will be ready in time for the 2012 Olympics, with the intention of expanding it further later.

A TfL spokesman said: “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.

“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. Discussions are ongoing,” the Mail quoted the official as saying.

Huawei runs networks for the Chinese military and has come under suspicion in America where it has struggled to win any significant contracts.

It hopes the move in Britain will help the company win more contracts.

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