Tubes To Get Phone Signal? Pros And Cons

By M@ Last edited 25 months ago
Tubes To Get Phone Signal? Pros And Cons
Image: Roll the Dice in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Could the Underground network finally be getting a phone signal? The FT thinks so (£). The newspaper reports that mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London will pursue the project after the General Election, inviting bids from telecoms companies.

It is still unclear how the scheme would be funded or whether there would be restrictions on access. Even so, the debate starts now as to whether this is a Good Thing or a Bad Thing for Londoners.

Here we weigh up the pros and cons of an uninterrupted signal.

Phone chat

Pro: Uninterrupted phone calls as you commute to or from work.
Con: You can no longer get rid of unwanted callers with the excuse 'I'm just entering a tunnel... I might break... hello? hello?... cchchc'.

Pro: You can make that all-important call to find out what's for dinner, or how junior got on at nursery.
Con: So can the person next to you, and their conversation is infinitely more annoying.

Pro: If you lose your friends or family in a crowded tube station, you'll be able to quickly locate them. Especially important if you ever get separated from a small child.
Con: Hard to think of a downside to this one, unless you're trying to escape a stag or hen party.

Pro: Will breathe some life into the tube carriage, which is traditionally a temple of silence.
Con: Will breathe some life into the tube carriage, which is traditionally a temple of silence.

Better internet access

Pro: Will provide uninterrupted access to the internet in stations and running tunnels, quashing the patchy, unreliable Wi-Fi service from Virgin.
The further demise in quality of the free newspapers, as people ignore them in favour of their phones.

Pro: Increase in productivity, as commuters respond to emails and review notes over more of their journey.
Con: Decrease in productivity as everyone spends yet more time on social media.

Pro: Imagine the potential for augmented reality gaming on the tube, with werewolves stalking the tunnels and moving geocaches hidden on tube carriages.
Con: Increase in the number of people failing to 'mind the gap', as they chase a Pikachu off the train.

Pro: It'll finally put us on par with just about every other world city, where it's long been the norm.
Con: Another erosion of the famous British reserve.


Pro: Yet another way to avoid making eye contact with other tube users.
Con: An invitation to thieves (and worse) who can take advantage of a engrossed, unobservant crowd.

Pro: Provides a quick way for people to report abuse or threatening behaviour.
Con: This is only a good thing.

Pro: Offers a greater range of communications options in the event of an accident or emergency.
Con: People dialling the emergency services every time there's a five-minute tunnel delay.

Bottom line

Despite these hopes and fears, the scheme will probably have little impact on tube norms. After all, more than half the 'Underground' network is actually above ground. You could, right now, hold a very loud phone conversation all the way from High Barnet to East Finchley, or from Epping to Stratford, but people tend not to.  The DLR is almost entirely above ground, as are the Overground and most commuter trains. These trains are not intolerably noisy with chit-chat and Netflix. Bring it on, we say.

Last Updated 31 May 2017