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Mixed reaction to EE making mobile calls on London Underground easier

Thursday, April 9th 2015 by Dean Reilly

More commuters will be able to make and receive phone calls on the London Underground from tomorrow when EE enables wi-fi calling on its network.

But reaction to the news has been mixed, with commuters taking to social media to comment on the announcement.

The service will allow Lumia 640, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge owners on the network to use their phones within range of wi-fi hotspots, without having to use app-based messenger software.

Although the approximately 1.25bn commuters that use the transport network could already make wi-fi calls with applications like Skype, Vonage or WhatsApp, the announcement from EE is expected to make calling and texting on the underground easier and more prevalent.

Around 150 London Underground station platforms currently have wi-fi coverage, which was originally rolled out to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.

EE CEO Olaf Swantee said: “Our customers want to be able to call and text no matter where they are, and they don’t want to have to think about which app they need to use or if their friends have a particular third party service.”

Some commuters have welcomed the new service.

Others are concerned that it will make journeys noisier and more stressful.

Robert Zarywacz, courtesy consultant and online manager for the National Campaign for Courtesy, told Cable.co.uk the new service didn't necessarily mean that commuters had to be bothered by intrusive calls.

He said: "Greater availability of wi-fi on the Underground doesn’t have to mean passengers will be annoyed by more loud phone calls.

"As well as wi-fi calling, there’s also the option to communicate silently using email, text or other message apps.

"We have so many different ways to chat now that it’s not necessary to make a phone call unless it’s urgent and then it’s understandable."

'The purpose of courtesy'

Mr Zarywacz raised the possibility of designated talking or phoning carriages for commuters who wanted to use the service, but questioned how practical this would be during rush hour.

He added: "It can be easy to forget that a group talking loudly can be just as or more intrusive than one person speaking quietly into their phone.

"Depending on circumstances, such as in an empty carriage where there’s no one to disturb, it might be perfectly acceptable."

"We should base our decision whether or not to make or take a call on what impact it is likely to have on anyone around us.

"If it will intrude on someone else’s peace and quiet, then the answer is no. That’s the purpose of courtesy in everyday life."

As previously reported, EE customers will not need to download an app to use the service, but simply make calls and send texts as normal, with compatible handsets automatically switching to wi-fi connections if available.

Vodafone confirmed earlier this month that wi-fi calling would also be coming to its network.

Wi-fi calling is expected to be expanded to other popular handsets on the EE network in the near future.

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