Virgin Media signals end of free Wi-Fi on the Tube

Virgin Media signals end of free Wi-Fi on the Tube

Summary: The summer of free Wi-Fi on the London Underground looks like it is drawing to an end, as Virgin says it will reveal the next steps for the service after the end of September.


Virgin Media is getting ready to start charging non-customers to use the Wi-Fi service it provides on the London Underground.

The company began operating the Wi-Fi service in June, and it was available free of charge to all during the London 2012 Olympics. However, Virgin has always maintained that after the summer, it would become a paid service for people who do not subscribe to its mobile or cable-based broadband plans.

London Wi-Fi
Virgin Media will shortly begin charging for its Wi-Fi service on the London Underground. Image: Ben Woods

On Thursday, the company told ZDNet that it will reveal its plans for the next stage of the Wi-Fi network "after September", suggesting it is getting ready to introduce paid schemes. It declined to say what the cost will be for the pay-as-you-go plan it has said it will roll out.

In July, Virgin said it was in talks with potential wholesale partners, such as other mobile operators and ISPs, for them to resell the Wi-Fi service on the Tube. Depending on those deals, this could allow rivals such as O2, Three and Vodafone to run services on top of Virgin's network.

The Wi-Fi service is only available on platforms, escalators and councourses, but not in tunnels. It is live in more than 80 stations already, and Virgin Media plans to bring it to a total of around 120 stations by the end of 2012.

In hands-on testing, ZDNet saw download speeds of between 10Mbps and around 35Mbps on the London Underground service. People have used this for more than eight million posts to Twitter and Facebook, email messages and web page visits, Virgin said at the end of August. The Tube stations connected to Olympic venues were among the busiest for the Wi-Fi, while the busiest day was 1 August, when Bradley Wiggins won his gold medal.

Topics: Wi-Fi, Broadband, Telcos, United Kingdom

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • really??

    serioulsy?? people need their internet riding the escalator or waiting on the platform? If it worked in the tunnels then I could understand some value on longer journeys. Would anyone actually consider paying extra for this?? I have never paid for wifi out of home or office in my life
    • The service doesn't work on the tube

      Completely agree with cymru999. I have tried the service a couple of times on the tube but what use is being connected for the 2 minutes the train is at the station only to lose contact as soon as it departs. If you want to provide a WiFi train service it needs to be done through on-board repeaters and not just base stations at the stations. A better investment would be to improve the 3G coverage in the tunnels so you can better utilize it using your already existing flat rate 3G plan.

      But somehow to me it looks like the ZDnet articles from this journalist are not very technical or fact based but more losely based on own and quoted opinions which are not quantified ... What value did ZDnet add to this story ?
  • Free wifi

    Fortunately with websites like you can find lots of free wifi venues across the UK, including close to tube stations.

    Although that doesn't help with being on the tube...perhaps a good time to play snake...(for those that remember!)