London underground: no mobile trials imminent

Blurry tube
You'll have to wait to chat on the tube

The long-awaited trials to use your mobile phone on London’s underground tube network will not start in the near future according to a source at Transport for London.

The trials, which were set to start April 2008 at the earliest, have been delayed due to talks continuing with infrastructure providers.

“The trials are due to take place,” confirmed the source. “We haven’t got a definite date though, as discussions are still ongoing with regards to the mobile phone coverage.

“The basis of the trials was to see if the technology was out there to work at a deep level, as 60 per cent of the tube network is overground already.”

Mystery players

Among those rumoured to be involved in the project were BT and O2, the former especially likely as they are the communications partner for the London 2012 Olympics.

However, a call to BT yielded nothing more than a bland "We can’t comment on rumours.”

O2 also said they had no current involvement, despite being part of the network deployment of Airwave, designed for emergency radio connectivity on the underground, and were involved in similar trials in Scotland.

“We have no concrete plans to get involved in this trial, though we would be open to talks,” confirmed the mobile phone network provider.

Hang on… I’m going into a tunnel…

The trials were initially meant to be just on the platforms to help remove the chance of someone next to you screeching “I’m just on the tube, nearly home” on their phone.

However, users coming in and out of signal would overload the networks, so a constant connection needs to be maintained, which has contributed to the delays.

“The tunnels are quite confined with a lot of equipment, such as signalling devices, already in there,” confirmed the TfL source.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.