UK operators are to provide mobile reception for the Eurotunnel after the Olympic Games, after French operators signed a landmark deal this morning to provide an underground service between France and England.
Bouygues Telecom, Orange SFR and Free will provide a 2G and 3G service for the south running tunnel between France and the UK in time for the Olympic Games. Eurotunnel described the deal as a 'world's first', which will see a service provided 100m below the Channel to almost 20 million customers per year. French mobile customers will be charged the domestic rate while in the tunnel and will only switch to international roaming when they come above ground in England.
Eurotunnel is hopeful the French deal will speed up the process of British operators providing a similar service on the north tunnel between England and France. While operators can compete for the service, it is hoped as many sign up as possible in order to provide as wide-ranging a service as possible. Alcatel-Lucent is providing mobile infrastructure for both tunnels.
One operator told Mobile the reason UK carriers had not yet signed up to the service was because of concerns about its quality. He said: 'The solution proposed did not meet our needs because it's a poor 3G solution. Within the shuttle, it will offer 300KB; enough for getting email and that's it. The terms and conditions didn't have the longevity that we wanted for that level of investment. We also weren't given reassurance about what would happen when 4G is rolled out.'
However, he added UK operators were still open to further discussions on the issue.
Eric Besson, the French Government minister responsible for the digital economy said: 'I am delighted by this initiative taken by Eurotunnel, by the enthusiasm of the French telecoms operators and by the skill of Alcatel-Lucent, which will combine to deliver this advanced technological project to the benefit of all customers travelling through the Channel Tunnel.'
Eurotunnel chairman and CEO Jacques Gounon added: 'Eurotunnel, the vital link between the UK and France, is proud to commit to this investment, which will enable the connection of peoples, nations and cultures in this time of instant communications. Eurotunnel is sure that enabling mobile communications from below the waves will be an attraction for many customers.'
Editor: Graeme Neill