Plans for citywide rollout early next year...
Nokia has launched a two-month trial of a network of free wi-fi hotspots in London, with plans to roll out the hotspots across the capital early next year.
The trial will run from today until the end of 2011 and is being conducted in partnership with wi-fi company Spectrum Interactive. There are 26 hotspots involved in the pilot, all sited in the company's street payphones.
All 26 trial sites are located north of the river in central London, with hotspots in payphones at Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, South Kensington, Knightbridge, Mayfair, Lancaster Gate, Bayswater, Westminster, Sloane Square, Marylebone and Victoria. Trial locations were selected for being "high footfall" areas, the two companies said.
The trial supports access speeds of up to 20Mbps but users will be limited to 1Mbps to ensure a good service for all those using the service, the companies said.
The range of the wi-fi hotspots is likely to vary at different locations but Simon Alberga, executive chairman at Spectrum Interactive, said a rough range is 50 to 100 metres in either direction.
According to Alberga there is a movement in the UK towards wi-fi that is free at the point of use in locations where people do not remain for a long time, such as cafes and restaurants, with the wi-fi paid for by sponsorship and advertising rather than consumers.
There is no registration required to get online via the Nokia hotspots, although there is one T&Cs screen to click on on first use. After that, the network remembers the user and does not require additional clicks to use the network. Use of the hotspots is not restricted to Nokia devices: any wi-fi-enabled device will be able to get online for free.
Nokia said it will be collecting usage, but not personal, data from users of the network - specifically browser type, time of connection and data volume - to try to understand issues such as how long people spend online, how many people are using the hotspots and the types of devices logging on.
The company said it wants to analyse browsing behaviour and demand for free wi-fi access to help it determine the amount of bandwidth required to meet demand and the best locations for future hotspots.
Users of Nokia Maps will be able to locate hotspots via the mapping service - as pictured below.