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ZDnet report that

London Underground stays in mobile dark ages

By Natasha Lomas

Posted on ZDNet News: Mar 16, 2009 8:54:54 AM

A plan to put mobile connectivity on the London Underground has stalled.

Back in March 2007, Transport for London (TfL) put out a tender for a six-month trial of mobile-phone technology on the Waterloo and City line. The aim of the trial -- originally scheduled for 2008 -- was to determine whether it would be technically and commercially viable for coverage to be extended across the entire Tube network.

Speaking at the time, Richard Parry, strategy and service development director of London Underground, said: "We recognize that there is now growing demand for mobile coverage to be extended to deep-level sections of the Tube."

However, two years on and no trial later the conclusion seems to be that mobiles on the Tube are not commercially viable. A TfL spokeswoman told ZDNet UK's sister site,, that three proposals were received by the October 2007 deadline but none were considered commercially "credible".

"London Underground tendered for a trial of mobile phones on the Waterloo and City line but the market has yet to provide us with a credible proposal for enabling mobile-phone use on the Tube," she said.

The high costs associated with the tenders appear to have seen the project shelved.

"While it is technically possible to deploy mobile-phone and data-wireless solutions on the deep-level Underground tunnels and stations, the unique nature and environment of the Tube mean that project costs would be prohibitively high at this time," the spokeswoman said.

TfL is still open to commercial approaches, according to the spokeswoman, but there are currently no active plans to trial or deploy cellular technology -- meaning the Underground mobile-network rollout has effectively hit the buffers.


Earlier this year, the Airwave emergency communication system went live on the Underground -- which means police and other emergency services personnel are now able to communicate wirelessly through 250 miles of Tube tunnels.

It sounds as if TfL have been too greedy in what they were planning to charge the Mobile Network Operators. Nobody could possibly have made any money, or even covered their costs,on the Waterloo and City Line pilot project - it is far too short a journey.

The prospects of "I will see you in a few minutes" or endless other annoying one sided conversations in public, is one which many people will not regret missing out on on the Tube.

The potential risks of mobile phone activated bombs on the deep Tube, are not to be dismissed lightly either.

Hopefully.any Deep Tube mobile phone location tracking surveillance infrastructure (which would have been provided for free, piggy backing on top of a commercial phone service) will also prove to be too expensive to justify financially. Such surveillance infrastructure obviously already exists for much of the above ground sections of London Underground rail lines.

The UK political "blogosphere" and some of the mainstream media seems to be full of discussions about the case of Inigo Wilson, who published a Lefty Lexicon article on a conservative supporting blog,

This partly pointed out some of the "Lefty" Politically Correct NuLabour Orwellian newspeak which has become popular in recent years, citing the Metropolitan Police:

You can find some particularly rich hunting grounds among the well-stocked leaflet displays of Metropolitan Police stations. No one yet has formally announced that the Met doesn't 'do' ordinary crime, but each flyer makes it clear that if you are one of the large range of very modern sounding 'victim' types, then you are the priority for modern policing. See here for more of what's on offer.

The company he works for has been identified, via the wonders of internet search engines as Orange, and various people Islamic groups have complained to his employer, who seem to have suspended him from his job, for some of his satirical "definitions" in his Lexicon, especially regarding "Islamophobia" and "Palestinians".

These do not appear to be illegal in any way, but there is an online debate about alleged "racism" and "free speech".

However, public relations industry bloggers are also pointing to his "definition"

Consultation - a formal system for ignoring public views while patronising them at the same time. London's Congestion Charge for instance.

How can this be "satire" when it is simply a statement of the truth ?

Ken Livingstone is a past master of wasting our money on sham public consultations, in which he ignores the views of the majority of respondents, then presses on with his policies anyway, and then patronises anyone who points out their failures.

Where is the £65 million a year which the London Congestion Charge scheme was meant to contribute towards public transport ? It has all gone to Capita plc in extra charges and profits. Where is the actual positive net effect onmn either traffic congestion or on air pollution ? There is none.

However , taken together with the next "definition"

Community leader - someone plucked from obscurity to represent ‘the views of the community’ for the purposes of ‘consultation’. NB never elected to this position.

pehaps this is what has lead to Inigo Wilson's suspension by Orange, since he is not some call centre operative, but instead

"Inigo Wilson manages community affairs for a large telecoms company"

i.e. he is was involved in helping to get Mobile Phone Masts sited in communities up and down the country.

All of which prompts us to ask:

When were you last consulted by Orange (or any of their rivals) over the siting of a Mobile Phone Mast in your community in London ?

It has now emerged why there were conflicting reports about the state of the mobile phone network last July 7th 2005, in the aftermath of the terorist bomb attacks in London:

Report of the 7 July Review Committee (.pdf) of the Greater London Assembly.

"London's telephone networks experienced unprecedented volumes of traffic. Vodafone experienced a 250 per cent increase in the volume of calls and a doubling of the volume of text messages. There were twice as many calls on the BT network as would normally be the case on a Thursday morning. Cable & Wireless handled ten times as many calls as usual to the Vodafone and O2 networks - 300,000 calls were placed every 15 minutes, compared to 30,000 on a normal working day. O2 would normally expect to handle 7 million calls per day. On 7 July, 11 million calls were connected - 60 per cent more than usual - and this does not include unsuccessful calls."

This was all entirely predictable, given the experiences of New York on Spetember 11th 2001, and the large scale electrical power outage of 28th August 2003 in South London

However, there is is only so much a mobile phone network operator can do to temporarily and marginally increase their network capacity in an Emergency e.g. "call gapping" to arbitrarily prevent a percentage of dialed calls from actually connecting, (which doubles the radio capactiy at a Cell Base Station, but results in lower call quality) and perhaps , turning off the Handset to Cell Base Station Encryption etc. Since none of their "critical national infrastructure" was actually out of action as a direct result of the terrorist bombs, it appears that the mobile phone network operators' emergency plans did not kick in immediately, as they expected their networks to cope ok.

What is not acceptable is the apparent lack of coordination between the Metropolitan Police "Gold Command" who were nominally in charge of the emergency, and the City of London Police (presumably one of the "Silver Commands"), who for their own understandable reasons got the O2 mobile phone network to implent Access Overload Control (ACCOLC) , in an area of about 1 kilometer around Aldgate Tube station i.e. covering much of the City of London, in spite of the decision by Gold Command not to impose ACCOLC in the same area at the request of the London Ambulance Service.

Apparently the Emergency plan does not require the mobile network operator to seek confirmation from Gold Command for initiating ACCOLC,

What is the point of having a Gold / Silver / Bronze" emergency incident command and control structure if it is not actually in command ?

It also emerged that nobody appears to be sure how many key emergency workers are actually carrying mobile phones equipped with the specially issued SIM cards, which would allow their phones to work, when the general public is excluded from the network under ACCOLC.

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