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Internet bid for Paris Métro

Mobile phone firms object as they are asked to pay for exclusive access to underground network and RER

PARIS Métro could have internet access underground within two years after transport network RATP asked the four service providers to come up with a plan - and some cash.

However, while the Métro was Europe's first to have a mobile phone service the move to provide internet access may not prove so smooth.

RATP wants to make a profit out of the project and has asked the ISPs to bid for the right to provide the high-speed 3G network across its 320 stations in the Métro and RER.

The four mobile companies have said they would prefer to work together. With up to seven million travellers per day - and one in two of them having internet-equipped smartphones - they want to share the load as happened when the 2G mobile phone network was installed 10 years ago. They say a single ISP could not handle the load.

It is thought some of the ISPs have complained to telecoms regulator Arcep that the RATP's plan for exclusive access on a public transport network ignores competition laws.

The work is expected to cost several tens of millions of euros - the 2G network cost €40m 10 years ago - and RATP commercial manager Marie-Catherine Lecoufle told Le Figaro that using one single operator would speed up the introduction of the network. She added: "However, the ISP are only really interested in around 50 of the stations - the most profitable - because there is more business there."

At present the Métro has internet access only using Edge technology or WiFi in stations but these connections are not reliable.

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