Eurotunnel is to install a 2G (GSM 900 and DCS1800) and 3G (UMTS 2100) GSM-P telephone system inside the Channel Tunnel in time for the Olympic Games in July 2012 following the signing of a deal today (6 March 2012) with French mobile operators. However, UK operators have yet to sign up to the project, but are expected to do so after the Olympic Games.
The move will allow Le Shuttle and high speed passenger train customers to use their mobile telephones inside the rail tunnels 100m below the Channel. Almost 20 million customers a year travel through the 53km of the Channel Tunnel.
The installation, which will cost of €14m (£11.6m), has been made possible by the signature of an agreement today at the French Ministry for the Economy, Finance and Industry by Eurotunnel and the telecoms operators in France: Bouygues Telecom, Orange SFR and Free.
The French operators will provide an extension of their 2G/3G coverage through the South running tunnel (running from France to the UK) via a radiating cable and repeaters positioned every 750m.The North running tunnel (from the UK to France) will be covered by British operators after the Olympic Games.
One UK mobile operator told Wireless’s sister magazine Mobile that the reason UK carriers had not yet signed up to the service was because of concerns about its quality. He said: 'The solution proposed did not meet our needs because it's a poor 3G solution. Within the shuttle, it will offer 300KB; enough for getting email and that's it. The terms and conditions didn't have the longevity that we wanted for that level of investment. We also weren't given reassurance about what would happen when 4G is rolled out.'
However, he added UK operators were still open to further discussions on the issue.
The installation of this additional mobile telecommunications service has been made possible as Eurotunnel is already in the process of installing the latest version of GSM-R (the specialized rail version of GSM) railway signaling equipment. The choice of the same equipment supplier for both GSM-P and GSM-R, Alcatel-Lucent, will ensure the compatibility of the infrastructure and enable costs to be controlled whilst accelerating the installation.
UK firm, Axell Wireless is providing its fibre optic Distributed Antenna System (DAS) to propagate mobile signals, both voice and data, throughout the tunnel. Both the Northbound and the Southbound tunnel are being equipped with the necessary in-tunnel coverage equipment supplied by Axell Wireless. Timing regarding the provisioning and operation of services is under the control of the relevant operators.
Consumer mobile services in the Eurotunnel will operate on a separate system to the specialist GSM-R railway communications network, which is also being enabled using Axell Wireless technology.
Eric Besson, the French Government minister responsible for the Digital Economy stated: ‘I am delighted by this initiative taken by Eurotunnel, by the enthusiasm of the French telecoms operators and by the skill of Alcatel-Lucent, which will combine to deliver this advanced technological project to the benefit of all customers travelling through the Channel Tunnel.’
Jacques Gounon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Eurotunnel stated: ‘Eurotunnel, the vital link between the UK and France, is proud to commit to this investment which will enable the connection of peoples, nations and cultures in this time of instant communications. Eurotunnel is sure that enabling mobile communications from below the waves will be an attraction for many customers.’