Huawei close to Tube mobile deal, say reports

The Chinese company is the preferred bidder to provide the infrastructure to let people use their mobile phones while travelling on London Underground, according to reports

Huawei is close to a deal with Transport for London to provide mobile communications equipment on the London Underground, according to reports.

London Underground mobile coverage

Huawei is reportedly close to winning a contract to supply mobile-phone equipment to the London Underground. Photo credit: CokeeOrg on Flickr

The Chinese communications hardware maker is the only bidder in the running for the contract, which it will fulfil in conjunction with IT services provider Thales, the Financial Times reported on Sunday. Huawei has pledged to donate £50m-worth of equipment to secure the deal, according to The Sunday Times.

Transport for London (TfL) declined to confirm the reports, saying only that Huawei was one of the companies bidding to provide the infrastructure that will allow travellers to use their mobile phones on the Underground.

"Transport for London 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," TfL said in a statement. "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."

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.

– Transport for London

The London transport provider also declined to say whether the contract will stipulate that the communications infrastructure be in place in time for the 2012 Olympics.

While it confirmed that it is a bidder, Huawei declined to say whether it was in advanced negotiations for the TfL contract.

"Due to business confidentiality, we are unable to comment on the project at this point, but we can confirm that we are involved in the bidding process," the Chinese company said in a statement. "The UK is an important market for Huawei, and we endeavour to provide secure, technologically advanced communication services to the British people."

Security concerns

Huawei has been forced to pull out of a deal to acquire the assets of US server provider 3Leaf, the BBC reported on Monday. The deal raised concerns within the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) because of the company's links to the Chinese government.

US authorities have previously spoken out about worries that components in foreign-supplied equipment such as routers could include backdoors to allow unauthorised access by other countries to sensitive systems.

In the UK, Huawei supplies a number of pieces of hardware to BT and has set up a security-testing centre in Banbury, with oversight from GCHQ, to test the security of its equipment.

"Huawei has a proven track record of providing secure products and solutions to our customers, including 46 out of [the] top 50 telecom operators globally," the company said in its statement. "Our newly opened cybersecurity centre in the UK shows our commitment to ensuring our equipment meets the most stringent security requirements. Huawei is a 100-percent privately held global company, owned entirely by its employees."

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