London gets free Wi-Fi

London gets free Wi-Fi

Summary: The Thames has been lined with free wireless internet coverage, contrasting with the raft of paid-for hotspots emerging across the country

TOPICS: Networking

A free metropolitan Wi-Fi network has been launched in London, continuing the gradual trend towards free public wireless access in Europe and the US.

The group and Wi-Fi network infrastructure firm MeshHopper have joined forces to offer free Wi-Fi access to businesses and the public along a 22km stretch of the River Thames.

MeshHopper is the company behind the paid-for Thames Online Wi-Fi network, which went fully commercial last year and which covers the same stretch of the river, from Millbank in central London to Greenwich in south-east London.

The free network, which has been branded as "", gives users free access if they agree to view a 15 to 30 second advert every 15 minutes. If users don't want to view the adverts, they are charged one of a range of tariffs, including £2.95 per hour or £9.95 a month.

The free service operates with modest download speeds of 256Kbps. The paid-for services operate at a faster 500Kbps. has set up 1,500 smaller networks in buildings and open spaces around Europe, but the Thames service is by far its biggest network. "This really marks the arrival of free Wi-Fi in Greater London," said Dan Toomey, chief executive of "Millions of Londoners, as well as commuters, visitors and tourists, can now expect to find free Wi-Fi as they work or play along the Thames."


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The network will be extended to 36km by August.

The service follows the launch in summer 2006 of a free city-wide Wi-Fi network in Norwich, which is supported by the local council to help generate inward investment.

It is understood that a free network will be launched in August in Manchester city centre, in direct competition with a paid-for network built by BT. 

Paris is currently building a free city-wide Wi-Fi network in partnership with Alcatel-Lucent and mobile operator SFR. This network will be offered to both citizens and visitors to the French capital.

BT has built a number of city-wide Wi-Fi networks up and down the UK in partnership with local councils, and the City of London has backed a similar network for the financial community in partnership with operator The Cloud, but all these networks charge for access.

An increasing number of US towns and cities offer free or subsidised Wi-Fi access, including San Francisco, Philadelphia, Raleigh and Mountain View.

Topic: Networking

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  • Complete trash.

    When I first read the title "London gets free Wi-Fi" I thought, wow thats great. After reading the "small print" as it were I feel it to be complete trash. Who in hell wants to have to watch adverts while trying to enjoy the internet... This aint TV lol. The price per month is acceptable I guess. I can only see your light internet user going for this. The speeds are too slow. I see it to be a waste of time unless they up the speeds and if they don't then only your email checking side of the internet will fly for this. Changes will need to be made.
  • Ad-supported access

    Not so sure there, Fen. I'd be willing to bet that, within the next 10 years, you're going to see a massive rise in ad-supported access of all kinds. For example, the way industry people are talking right now, your mobile phone could end up free to use as long as you put up with location-specific ads everywhere you go - why do you think GPS is finding its way into handsets?

    Also look at the music download biz. Check out Peter Gabriel's download service ( which gives you free music tracks with, you guessed it, ads grafted on.
    David Meyer
  • Other objections

    In the US. people do seem more used to sitting through ads to get what they want--just try watching network TV. That may be why over in San Francisco, my old home, it's not resistance to advertising that is holding up the introduction of free municipal Wi-Fi.

    According to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle on July 12, supervisors are kicking up a fuss because they believe the plan could hand provider EarthLink a Wi-Fi monopoly in the city. They are also worried about privacy. While EarthLink has made assurances that it won't share personal details of subscribers to its paid service, it has stayed silent about whether it will do the same for those who use the free counterpart.
    Karen Friar