The London Underground could have a mobile network in time for the 2012 Olympics, at a cost of £100 million. Transport for London is in "ongoing" talks with Chinese mobile manufacturer Huawei, according to the Financial Times. Huawei are reportedly offering £50 million in equipment, while UK electronics giant Thales would be installing and maintaining the network.
A Transport for London spokesperson told the FT that the rest of the cost would be "funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare- or taxpayers"; meanwhile, Metro reports that "Vodafone and O2 have agreed to pick up the installation tab". The huge cost of the project is due to the difficulty of installing transmitters throughout London's slightly dilapidated tunnels. What's more, work can only take place during the early hours of the morning when the tube shuts.
Although the benefits for mobile internet and communications are obvious, security concerns have already been voiced. Some fear a mobile network will enable remote bomb detonations. Meanwhile, others fear Huawei itself could be a threat if it has ties with the Chinese government. The privately-owned company has had deals blocked by the US government before; last week, its takeover of server company 3Leaf was halted pending a decision from the White House.
The deal must be agreed by late April to early May, in order for the work to be completed by Spring 2012. Work would initially focus on the Central and Jubilee lines due to their importance in the upcoming Olympics.