Mon, Feb 21, 2011 - Page 11 News List

China’s Huawei offers free network to London

NO STRINGS ATTACHED:The mobile phone network would mean that people would be able to make and receive calls on the Underground for the first time

AFP, LONDON

Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies Co Ltd (華為) is offering to install — for free — a mobile-phone network worth £50 million (US$81.2 million) on the London Underground train system in time for the next year’s Olympics, a report said yesterday.

Huawei is presenting the offer as a gift from one Olympic host nation to another, the UK’s Sunday Times newspaper reported, without citing its sources.

The company would -reportedly install mobile transmitters along the ceilings of tunnels so that travelers could make and receive calls for the first time while underground.

Mobile operators, including Vodafone Group PLC and Telefonica O2 UK, have agreed to pay for the installation work, while Huawei hopes to earn income in maintenance fees, according to the report.

Transport for London, the official body responsible for the transport system in the city, said talks had started on fitting a mobile network on the underground, but did not confirm Huawei’s involvement.

“Transport for London and the Mayor of London [Boris Johnson] are currently in discussion with mobile phone operators and other suppliers about the potential provision of mobile phone services on the deep Tube network,” a spokesman said.

However, Member of Parliament Patrick Mercer, of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party, said allowing a Chinese firm to provide the -network could pose a security risk.

“It has been proven that a proportion of the cyberattacks on this country come from China,” he told the Sunday Times. “I wonder when the eyes of the world are upon us whether there is sense in using a Chinese firm to install a sensitive mobile network.”

Huawei, founded 23 years ago by Ren Zhengfei (任正非), a former People’s Liberation Army engineer, has long rejected accusations that it has ties to the Chinese military.

It insists it is owned by its employees and that Ren, its chief executive, has less than a 2 percent stake in the company.

Huawei’s technology is used to build mobile phone networks around the world and its consumer products include smartphones that run on Google Inc’s Android platform and technology to connect laptops to the Internet using 3G networks.

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