Operators are just weeks away from signing a £150m investment deal to build a mobile network on the Underground, well placed sources told Mobile this week.
The deal between Transport for London (TfL) and the big four operators has received backing from the Mayor of London and is expected to be signed within the next two weeks.
An operator source said: ‘We are very close to signing a deal to put mobile on the underground. The Mayor of London is keen for it [the network] to happen before the Olympics.’
The deal, which will see operators provide both a 3G and 2G signal, entails placing signal ‘repeaters’ in each station to push the signal down the line. It will run through cables known as ‘leaky cables’.
Operators have so far agreed to roll out the service on the Jubilee and Central lines, Mobile understands.
‘You will see those at the start of the Olympics but the Mayor’s office are hoping that all lines will also be connected,’ the source added.
Meanwhile, the deal is at risk of delays after a stand off between the operators and the French company TfL favours to run the managed services part of deal, Thales, over commercials. Huawei has been lined up to manage the equipment as part as a services contract.
As yet, the operators have not been told how much this will cost on an annual basis.
One source said: ‘If this went out to tender, it wouldn’t be ready for the Olympics. The negotiations are still ongoing.’
Another source said: ‘All the operators are committed but are holding back until the right financials are in place.’
The source added: ‘One of the companies signed up to lead on the technology side would operate on a yearly management fee. We don’t know how much that is. We are saying to the Mayor that we need to know how much this is going to cost each year.’
Previously, the Tube deal was going to run as a TfL MVNO, from which the operators would have to rent space. This idea was apparently scrapped when the operators argued that it had to be run using their own networks.
A TfL spokeswoman said: ‘TfL and the Mayor of London are currently in discussion with mobile phone operators and other suppliers about the potential provision of mobile phone services on the deep tube network. Given the financial pressures on TfL's budgets any solution would need to be funded through mobile operators with no cost to fare or taxpayers. Discussions are ongoing.’
O2, Vodafone, Everything Everywhere and Three did not comment at the time Mobile went to press.