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London Underground Gets WiFi in Time for Olympics

March 15, 2012


Connected sports fans and commuters in one of the world’s most populous cities can rejoice: WiFi (News - Alert) is coming to the London Underground in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. But here’s the catch: Wireless Internet connectivity will only be available in stations, not trains – and it won’t be free forever.

London Mayor Boris Johnson plans to install the WiFi service within the Underground network. At first, 80 of the 276 stations will have WiFi, with another 40 having wireless internet capabilities by the end of the year. The contract to carry out the work has been awarded to UK telecommunications company Virgin Media (News - Alert).

The WiFi service is expected to launch in July, and will be free to use during the month, through the Olympics, ending August 12. It will become a pay-as-you-go service thereafter.

“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,” Johnson said inastatement. “This is a fabulous new and free resource which will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage and playing host to millions.”

Though WiFi may eventually be coming to trains on the Underground network, the cost of the work required is too prohibitive for it to be carried out at present. For the time being, the WiFi signal will be limited to platforms, escalators and ticket halls.

“We’ll help people make the most of the city and will continue to evolve the service, ensuring everyone can benefit from a service London will be proud of,” said Neil Berkett, Virgin Media chief executive.

London is playing catch-up to some of the world’s other bustling metropolises here. South Korea’s capital of Seoul, for instance, had wireless Internet connectivity in its subway system since 2007.

But it’s encouraging to see WiFi coming to the Underground, even if it means seeing everyone frantically tapping their smartphones on the platform to send that important email before the train arrives. Perhaps this will help lightenthemood for Britons ahead of the Olympics.

Edited by Braden Becker