Internet going Underground, says London Mayor
London's Mayor says he wants to see internet access and mobile phone use on the Underground, despite costs.
London mayor Boris Johnson has given his support to plans to install Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile phone base stations in London Underground stations.
In his address to the annual State of London debate last night, Johnson said he was willing to consider any ideas that would help London become one of the most technologically advanced cities in the world, as long as they are financially viable.
“The truth is that I'm on the side of progress if we possibly can do it. We could do it because I do think people want the facility of looking at their BlackBerrys,” he said.
However, he did concede: “There are big technical difficulties. It's very expensive.”
The debate over introducing web and mobile phone access to the London Underground is not new. As far back as 2005, then-mayor Ken Livingstone said: “We know that many Londoners would like the convenience of being able to use their mobile phones at Tube stations throughout the Underground network.
“We also want to see how the technology could be taken even further, for instance wireless Internet so passengers could receive up-to-the-minute travel information via their laptop or mobile phone.”
But efforts to make progress since then have stalled, mainly because of costs. A six-month trial of on-platform web and phone services was due to commence in 2008, but a suitable partner could not be found.
“We tendered for a trial of mobile phone technology on the Waterloo and City line, but the market has yet to provide a commercially viable solution,” a London Underground spokesperson told Wireless Magazines earlier this year.
And while the informal nature of the mayor's latest comments suggest not much has changed on an official level, he has already shown he isn't afraid to put his weight behind projects perceived as boosting the capital's technological standing on the global stage.
Johnson has made no secret of his desire to give all of London wireless internet access, and last month told a Google conference that he had approached Europe's largest broadband provider The Cloud, which already covers the City of London, to extend the coverage across the capital in time for the 2012 Olympics. Plans would include installing wireless hotspots in street lights and bus stops.
As recently as last year, mobile access on the tube was mooted, as part of the Digital Britain report.