London Underground (LU) looks set to begin mobile phone service trials next year after receiving 70 bids to wire up the capital's Tube network for mobile phone and other wireless services.
The deadline for "expressions of interest" in carrying out the major project passed yesterday after being extended by a month due to the overwhelming interest shown by potential suppliers.
LU has now given companies until the end of June to complete a "market consultation document" which examines the issues that need to be taken into account for providing wireless services across London's Tube network.
If all goes to plan, trials could kick off next year followed by contract tenders at the beginning of 2007 with commuters finally able to use the service at stations from summer 2008.
At this stage the proposals include networking underground stations and exclude coverage on Tube trains, although this is something that might be considered in the future.
Speaking yesterday LU director of strategy Richard Parry said: "We have received an excellent initial response from the market, who have demonstrated considerable interest in providing both mobile phone services and other exciting technologies for LU customers.
"We intend to now issue a consultation document for those who have expressed interest so that we can get further information from the market about how we could best provide these services."
In March, Mayor Ken Livingstone announced he was looking for suppliers to install their kit deep underground to enable commuters to use mobiles and wireless laptops at Tube stations. If the plan gets the green light, LU aims to trial the technology next year ahead of a full commercial roll-out in 2008. ®