While Transport for London starts its trials to offer web access on the underground, this is already a reality in Sao Paulo, Brazil. And, like everything else in technology, that comes with its downsides.
Currently, all the major mobile operators in Brazil are contracted by Sao Paulo’s Metro, as it is called, to provide mobile connectivity – as well as web access – for the majority of its 60-station network, which carries about 3.6 million users a year.
To really have an idea of what it is like, imagine being squeezed in an underground train carriage during the rush hour, under the sweaty armpits of several people screaming down your ears about their frustrations about a colleague, what is it that they want for dinner and the details of their date last night, all at the same time?
Add the fact that push-to-talk radio-based technology is also very popular in Brazil, since it reduces mobile call costs dramatically. Then you might also have someone using a PTT device on speaker mode, just to make your underground journey even more fun.
Last year, it was suggested that TfL and the big four UK mobile operators were in talks about a £100m scheme aimed at introducing mobile coverage underground across the capital by 2012.
Now anyone who knows about the Tube etiquette in London – conversations on the train are considered seriously uncool, perhaps even if it is just to call the boss to say that you will be late again, because of any other engineering works/signal failure/people under the train/snow-related problem.
I’m thinking that people don’t want mobile access in London to be chatting non-stop; they want it mostly for the web access. But passengers can’t get just that part of the deal: inevitably, they will get people chattering away in the crowded tube carriage, just because they can.
So, what would you do if some chap started talking non-stop about the latest family row, when all you want is to get home as fast as you can after a long working day and have a bit of silence please?
What I am asking is, if underground mobile coverage ever happens in London, will Londoners be able to put up with it?