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

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.
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

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.

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