Service to go live in time for 2012 Olympic Games
London will be home to the largest free wi-fi hub in Europe following a deal to make wireless internet available in the capital.
Free wi-fi will be available in public areas across the boroughs of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea from this year via a network provided by O2.
The first areas to get coverage will be "flagship locations", such as Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street, where the service will be available in time for the Olympic Games this summer. The service will be rolled out across the remaining areas over the next 10 years.
Westminster councillor Philippa Roe said that the service, which will be installed and run at no cost to the taxpayer, will help serve the millions of visitors that are expected to visit the capital in 2012.
"This is a landmark achievement," Roe, cabinet member for strategic finance at Westminster City Council, said in a statement.
"[The] Olympic Games mean that London will be putting on the biggest show on earth and as Westminster has a starring role, visitors to London will easily be able to share their pictures and updates of the Olympic events across social networking sites."
The service will alleviate pressure on London's mobile phone networks which, according to a Royal Borough of Kensington council document from December 2011, are "already approaching breaking point due the enormous demand for network capacity from smartphones connecting to the internet, as a single internet session is the equivalent of 10 simultaneous phone calls".
The wi-fi service is expected to provide revenue for O2 and the councils, which will be generated from the wholesaling of spare network capacity to other mobile network operators and advertising on the wi-fi landing page.
Users of the service will be required to register with their name and email address before using the service.
Last year mobile phone maker Nokia launched a two-month trial of free wi-fi hotspots in London - with a view to rolling out hotspots across the city early this year.