London gets 'largest ever' indoor Wi-Fi site

The British Library claims to have built the largest indoor wireless LAN in the capital

The British Library finally launched its wireless network on Tuesday, which it claims is the largest enclosed Wi-Fi hot spot in the UK capital.

The network covers eleven reading rooms, the Library auditorium, a cafe and restaurant, and also an outdoor Piazza. It will be available to around 3,000 visitors per day.

Broadcom has built a huge Wi-Fi zone outdoors in Central London, but the British Library believes its network is the largest indoor site, rivalling locations such as Heathrow Airport in terms of coverage.

The British Library network, built by wireless operator The Cloud, was originally meant to be opened in September by the then e-commerce minister Stephen Timms. This was postponed after a government reshuffle saw Timms moved to the Treasury, to be replaced by Mike O'Brien.

According to a British Library spokesperson, it wasn't possible to find a gap in O'Brien's diary to allow him to launch the network.

The project has been on trial since the end of May, and achieved peak usage levels of 1,200 sessions per week.

One reason for its popularity could be that the reading rooms do not offer fixed-line Internet access.

"Some people used to go across the road to an Internet cafe to get Web access," said British Library spokesman Ben Sanderson.

As the Library is located close to Euston and Kings Cross railway stations, it may be convenient for commuters to pop in to use its wireless network -- especially as GNER, which operates from Kings Cross, now offers Wi-Fi to some passengers on its trains.

The crunch test will be whether visitors are prepared to pay £4.50 per hour for Wi-Fi access.

Sanderson explained that the Library had decided that it was important to recover some revenue after investing in the network rollout, especially as it expected that some people will now come to the Library primarily for Web access.

"It won't just be readers that use this network. There will also be people visiting to use the network," Sanderson said.

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