Saturday, November 24, 2012

London Underground WiFi only free until 2013

The London Underground WiFi network will no longer be free after the new year with users being charged up to £2 per day to use the facilities.

At present, all Tube travellers have free access thanks to a deal negotiated by London Mayor Boris Johnson with Virgin Media that originally only covered the Olympics period but was later extended to the end of 2012.

Growing network

Currently there are 80 stations wired up with 20 more coming online by the end of the year and a further 28 set to provide WiFi in early 2013. "WiFi on London Underground has been an incredible success with over 700,000 people already online and a remarkable million sessions every day," Virgin Media boss Jon James says. While hugely popular, the charges are likely to reduce usage significantly especially for foreign visitors. 

From free to fee

Those wishing to continue to use the service will have to pay £2 per day with cheaper rates offered for those opting for weekly or monthly passes tipped at £5 and £15 respectively. Customers of Virgin, Vodafone and EE (including Orange and T-Mobile) will continue to obtain free access since they have signed up as partners with Virgin. O2 subscribers are left out in the cold however since they have yet to sign up to the scheme.

According to Virgin Media boss Jon James, those partnerships mean that "the majority of Tube users can stay connected for no extra cost". While generally true the change is more likely to affect foreign visitors to London. Roaming data charges are prohibitively expensive and access to free WiFi is a lifesaver for those on travel.

Lack of free WiFi

Even where coffee shops provide free WiFi to its customers there can be difficulties registering for foreign visitors since a mobile number needs to be provided in order to send an activation code.

Similar such systems exist in various outlets around the world. For example McDonald's restaurants in Beijing offer free WiFi but require a local mobile number to register with the service. Even then censorship often limits what one can access on the Internet.

Truly free and easy access of the Internet remains elusive whether in the so called free West or the Far East.
[Virgin / TfL / Techradar / The Register / CNET]

tvnewswatch, London, UK

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