Mobiles on the tube: Move down the carriage or stand clear?


ANALYSIS: Rumours have been rife this week that London is getting increasingly close to mobile access for voice and data on the Underground.

Both the current mayor, Boris Johnson, and his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, have examined the possibility and pushed to get operators and equipment manufacturers on board with the scheme.

However, previous attempts fell down the proverbial escalator before moving from theory to reality.

It has now been reported widely Huawei will take up the cause by providing the hardware for Transport for London (TfL), with Thales installing the network and various UK operators taking care of connectivity.

But will Johnson's hopes for mobile access on the tube by 2012 remove the barriers to working on the go or just cause more infuriating delays on an already overcrowded network?

Barking mad?

City Hall might be behind the idea of mobile access underground but it seems the public who use the transport services feel quite differently about the whole thing.

Following the rumours, carried out a poll to see if Londoners were positive about the idea but feedback could have Huawei worried.

More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the 1,000-plus London residents over the age of 18 surveyed said they weren't in favour of mobile connectivity on the underground and a raft of reasons flowed from the commuters.

Top of the list was an assumed higher risk of mugging, with 31 per cent using this as their justification. A baffling 16 per cent had concerns it would increase their monthly bills, whereas an understandable 14 per cent said they just didn't want to have to listen to other people chatting on their mobiles.

"The news of the underground mobile network certainly has caused quite a stir, but I am surprised to see so many people are against it," said Mark Owen,'s founder.

"There are obviously risks with having increased usage of mobile phones on the tube, but these are things that can be sorted. Having an underground mobile phone network is the next logical step, following in the footsteps of Paris and Hong Kong, who have had no major problems."

Jennifer Scott

Jennifer Scott is a former freelance journalist and currently political reporter for Sky News. She has a varied writing history, having started her career at Dennis Publishing, working in various roles across its business technology titles, including ITPro. Jennifer has specialised in a number of areas over the years and has produced a wealth of content for ITPro, focusing largely on data storage, networking, cloud computing, and telecommunications.

Most recently Jennifer has turned her skills to the political sphere and broadcast journalism, where she has worked for the BBC as a political reporter, before moving to Sky News.