China's Huawei 'in London Underground phones bid'

Chinese technology giant Huawei is offering to install for free a mobile phone network worth £50 million on the London Underground train system in time for the 2012 Olympics, a report said Sunday.

Huawei is presenting the offer - worth the equivalent of $80 million - as a gift from one Olympic host nation to another, reported Britain's Sunday Times newspaper, without citing its sources.

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

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

Transport for London (TfL), the official body responsible for the transport system in the British capital, 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 are currently in discussion with mobile phone operators and other suppliers about the potential provision of mobile phone services on the deep Tube network," said a spokesman.

But lawmaker Patrick Mercer, of Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party, warned 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, 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 two percent stake in the company.

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

sr/ach

 

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