London Underground has awarded Virgin Media the contract to provide a Wi-Fi service for the London Underground stations. By the start of the Olympic Games, the Wi-Fi service will be available at 80 of the 217 stations. By the end of the year, this is expected to have increased to 120 stations. The Wi-Fi service will only be accessible at platforms, ticket offices and escalators. This will be disappointing news for a number of London Underground commuters but there is sound reasoning why the Wi-Fi service will not be available in the network’s tunnels.
Huawei, a Chinese telecoms equipment company, investigated the possibility of implementing a 3G service throughout the underground tunnels, but it was soon discovered that building work would have to be conducted because of the lack of space between the trains and tunnels. Virgin Media would have faced the same problems if they wanted to supply a Wi-Fi service in the underground tunnels and therefore it wasn’t viable or feasible to consider doing so.
Kevin Baughan, Virgin Media’s director believes that the limited Wi-Fi service will be welcomed and not met with disappointment. Baughan stated “Every Wi-Fi station you pass through is going to give you the chance to stay connected, by quickly updating Facebook, Twitter, email and the like. Even while travelling, people will have a great experience.”
This Wi-Fi service will be free for everyone to use during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, once these events have finished, commuters who want full internet access will have to pay on a pay as you go service. This will not affect existing Virgin Media as it will be incorporated into their existing tariffs. The pricing tariffs have yet to be confirmed but it is expected that they will be released once the Wi-Fi service is up and running.
London’s mayor, Boris Johnson is particularly happy with the news that a Wi-Fi service is set to be available at London’s Underground stations. Johnson proclaimed “It’s vital that we harness the massive opportunities stemming from the digital revolution, by creating a vibrant, world class industry to attract investment and create jobs for Londoners. Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information whilst on the move.”