Net access for London Underground is ready

Plans have been announced to fit 120 stations on London’s Tube network with internet coverage ahead of the 2012 Olympics.

Femtocell technology has been ready for roll out for some time. It’s just a case of waiting for the transport authorities and network operators to put the system into place, with a contract not to be awarded until the end of the year.

A trial has been in place at Charing Cross station, with BT reportedly testing the technology at the deep-level station, also looking for passenger reactions.

It was shown that most Londoners were in favour of the system that will allow for access to internet in the station, though a separate scheme is also being discussed for mobile signals to be received onboard the network’s carriages, although the two projects are not connected.

Of course not all Londoners are particularly enamoured with the thought of technology being used in the bowels of the city.

The next stage in the development of a network-wide internet provision will, according to Cellular-News, see the current trial at Charing Cross expanded to another 16 stations with the service used by transport staff opened to the public.

The invitation for companies to bid for the contract, to be implemented by June 2012, will also extend to firms offering a more comprehensive service that will include bus stops.

While the project is looking at a considerable delay before permission is given to a provider, according to Andy Gothard at Picochip, a firm which provides femtocell technology to carriers, the technology is ready right now.

“We are able to provide the operators with what is required straight away,” he told TechEye.

“That is the easy bit to a degree, but the job of the operators is a much bigger one to actually put it all in place over the network.”

However it will be the end of 2011 before it’s decided which firm can begin to put the available technology in place.

One of the problems that operators face in succeeding with a scheme is, other than how to put the technology in the stations, but how to fund it – as it’s clear that TfL will not be willing to put its hand in its own pocket or that of its customers with ticket increases.

But there are certainly ways in which the big operators such as BT and Vodafone, which has been vocal in its wish to use femtocells in public access internet, can draw cash from a tube network. 3G would benefit operators the most.

“Whether the system will be using 3G or WiFi is something that will have to be decided, with 3G network much easier to monetise and use through a cell phone for example.

“WiFi on the other hand involves customers messing around with credit cards which makes it more difficult for the operator, alongside security issues.”

“While the WiFi Alliance is trying to make advancements they are not there quite yet.”