London's Tube to get free Wi-Fi in time for Olympics

Free Wi-Fi will be made available to London's commuters in time for the Olympics. That is, when the Tube drivers aren't on strike leaving half the network crippled for days at a time.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Everyone loves a freebie, especially if it comes in invisible wireless waves of Wi-Fi enjoyment. Thankfully for the typical grumpy Londoner, users of the Underground subway system will receive free Wi-Fi during July and August.

The catch? There isn't one as it happens, with anyone able to use the free Wi-Fi during the Olympics and beyond, thanks to Virgin Media. If there were one, however, it would be that once the slightly later Paralympic Games are over, non-Virgin customers will be shuttered out.


80 stations will have wireless coverage, but the service will not be available in the inner depths of the Underground system, such as on trains or on the platforms. It's bad enough having someone wedging their crime thriller novel in your back on the morning commute, without someone using your back as an iPad rest.

Where you can access the wireless network, it will be free to use, at no cost to the British taxpayers, and unlimited to use.

Colloquially known as the "Tube", it transports an estimated four--five million Londoners per day to and from work, and tourists all over the city.

Wi-Fi has long been an elusive dream for London's commuters. Mobile phone coverage on the Tube was considered but subsequently ditched last year after it proved too costly, with no one company wanting to pick up the cost of installing network base stations in Tube stations.

Virgin Media is fast becoming one of the most popular broadband providers in the UK. It was one of the first to experiment with and roll out super-fast fibre broadband to homes and businesses alike.

Questions are already being raised as to how useful the service will actually be. Considering there is often train after train within minutes of each other, it's hardly enough time to get out one's laptop and boot it up before the next train arrives. For smartphone users though, it will offer a small window back into the outside world above-ground.

In the meantime, rival broadband firm O2 is taking care of travellers and tourists alike on the surface, as it plans to roll out Europe's largest Wi-Fi network across the capital in time for the Olympics.

At the same time, the phone and home broadband company has rolled 4G high-speed broadband to the capital in hope it can beat the other networks to a fully functional next-generation wireless network.

Little known fact about the London Underground, the capital's subway system of trains. Around 55 percent of the tracks are in fact above ground, with only central London mostly under the surface. And there was me thinking you readers learn nothing from this column.

Image source: Trey Ratcliff/Flickr.


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