Mobile phones on the Tube?

Hannah ThompsonYouGovLabs and UK Public Opinion Website Editor
April 06, 2011, 7:34 PM GMT+0

The majority of London adults would support the introduction of WiFi and mobile phone network coverage on the London Underground network, but feels that the noise levels and crowds might make using phones difficult, our poll shows, as Mayor of London Boris Johnson confirms that network coverage will not be put in place before the London 2012 Olympic Games.

We asked over 1,000 London adults about their feelings towards the plans immediately after the idea was first mooted in July last year.

  • 59% of Londoners said they would be supportive of a plan to introduce WiFi and mobile phone coverage on the London Underground
  • 51% agreed that it would be ‘very useful’ if people could use mobile phones and/or WiFi on the Tube
  • 87% said they thought the use of phones and WiFi underground would be ‘very useful in an emergency situation’
  • 67% said if they had coverage underground, they would send texts
  • 41% said they’d check email, 40% said they’d make calls and 33% said they’d browse the Internet
  • Phone coverage came out top in a choice between the two, however, with 55% saying they’d prefer phone networks to WiFi, compared to 44% who would prefer to have WiFi access if they had to choose one
  • There were reservations, however; 68% agreed that using the Tube is too noisy for people to use their phones adequately, and 52% agreed that it was too busy to use phones or WiFi underground

Mayor Boris Johnson had previously expressed a desire to see WiFi and mobile phone coverage across the London Underground in time for 2012 but has cited cost and uncertain feasibility of the project ‒ due to the age and size of many Underground tunnels ‒ as factors in its delayed implementation. He told the BBC he hadn’t ‘ruled it out’, but equally could not ‘rule it in’.

WiFi is already in place in some major London stations, such as the centrally-located Underground and National Rail hub Charing Cross, but it seems that, despite its perceived benefits in an emergency situation, any introduction of mobile phone coverage across the Underground network would not receive blanket approval from the London public.

See the survey details and full results here