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Signal change: Wi-Fi on the Tube to stay free for longer

Virgin Media has changed its mind about when it will start charging travellers to access its Wi-Fi service on the London Underground, and won't start until 2013.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

London Underground travellers will now get free Wi-Fi service for the rest of the year, after Virgin Media pushed back the introduction of fees for non-customers.


Previously, the mobile operator indicated it planned to start charging non-customers for ad-hoc access to Tube Wi-Fi at the end of the summer. On Wednesday, though, it confirmed it will continue to offer it for free until at least the start of 2013.

Virgin Media said the service, at its busiest, has delivered more than one million tweets, Facebook posts, emails and web pages in one day to commuters and other passengers.

"Wi-Fi at Tube stations is proving to be a very popular service with up-to-the-minute travel information and journey planner at passengers' fingertips," Gareth Powell, London Underground's director of strategy and service development, said in a statement on Wednesday. "There are already 72 London Underground stations online and our engineers are working in partnership with Virgin Media to continue the roll-out in 2012."

Initially, Virgin aimed to get 80 stations online before the start of the 2012 Olympics in the capital, with the promise of 120 more to come by the end of the year. As well as charging non-customers for on-the-spot access, the company is planning to wholesale the Wi-Fi service through other networks and ISP partners.

The wholesale talks are"progressing well", according to a Virgin Media spokeswoman. The company gave no indication of what the service will cost, either through Virgin Media or a third-party.

In hands-on testing, ZDNet saw download speeds of between 10Mbps and around 35Mbps using the service.

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