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Free wi-fi coming to London

Two-month pilot begins today

By Verity Burns 01/11/2011 12:42
A large-scale trial of free wi-fi access in London has kicked off today, as part of a two-month experiment to gauge consumer interaction.

The scheme, backed by Nokia and wi-fi service provider Spectrum Interactive, is the first of its type in the UK that's aiming to make it easier for people to access online services on the move and completely for free.

Internet access will be initially available at 26 street hotspots from 1st November until the end of the year, to test consumer demand and browsing behaviour in the capital. The findings will then be used to determine the best locations for future hotspots, and how much bandwidth is needed to support demand.

Hotspots will be installed in streetside phone boxes in areas including Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Knightsbridge, Westminster and Marylebone, and will support access speeds of up to 20Mbps.

Nokia Maps showing where free wi-fi hotspots are
If the trial is successful, the plan is for a larger scale roll out across all of London in early 2012.

We spoke to Ernest Doku, tech expert at, who seemed positive about the scheme.

"To bring free, easy-to-access wireless connectivity to the capital has long been the wish of many, and is a shrewd move to get Nokia back on everyone’s lips for more than a range of new mobiles," he said.

"With our own StreetStats 3G data showing that mobile coverage in the centre of London is still very prone to ‘notspots’ when it comes to data services, the offer of a fast, always-on connection for browsing, email and even downloading content at speeds of 1Mbps sounds almost too good to be true.

"Whilst only a two-month trial and covering a narrow band of the city, the wealth of data that both Nokia and Spectrum can gather may well put them in a strong position to make the dream of London-wide wi-fi in time for the Olympics a reality."

What do you think to the scheme? Would you use it if it came to your hometown? Leave us your thoughts below.
01/11/2011 21:59
fantastic idea, lets get it countrywide, instead of just major cities.
01/11/2011 22:10

"Free" is a good start to get a consumer (potential revenue customer) into using a product. In this case Free Wi-Fi, chances of Nokia or Whoever giving it free is possible provided that they get more than free in return. For Nokia this could another platform for Adverts (revenue), Government Notices, Security Alerts to public, Road or Congestion Information, London Tube Live Data Stream, Video or TV on Demand etc.

Today almost all our devices and gadgets etc have built-in Wi-Fi and imagine connecting these gadgets to free always-on Wi-Fi - it will be amazing! you can stay in touch with your friends and families and work-folks in realtime! I am surprised why BT did not come-up with this initiative! Well there is nothing free from BT!

01/11/2011 21:07

sounds good... but there will be a catch.... there always is.

01/11/2011 23:30

This is another free trial in a big city that has good broadband speeds .why not try this in a village like the one i live in. we are lucky to get 0.3meg but BT abd other companys dont seem intrested in us,even cable byepassed us,the goverment says that every one should get braodband but not us in need only those how have a good connection allready.


02/11/2011 10:25
When I was in NY earlier in the year, the whole Times Square area had free wifi available. As a tourist who can't afford the ridiculous data charges the phone companies put on roaming, I found it to be a great service for checking emails, but also for finding out about latest offers in the city and places to go. Hope this is finally something London is looking at. If anyone is paying, it should be the government as a way of promoting tourism. Perhaps the first page you see is offers in London and advertising for places to visit/eat/stay. That advertising could be paid for and the money put back into running the service. Hope the trial is successful and is rolled out throughout the city.
01/11/2011 23:20

Oh boy, would i use definitely, I think it,s a great idea, but i don't,t know whether the broadband providers would like it, but how long would it stay free for before they start charging.


01/11/2011 23:31

This may just be a plan  for fast  and free internet service for the duration of the 2112 Olympics in London and not a plan that is likely to be rolled out across the UK.


To date the history of internet service in the UK has been a bit of a "mixed bag", "postcode lottery",  "population based " , and "whatever" affair.

01/11/2011 20:55
Like to know what the catch is, free wifi, same as all the mobile shops, free mobiles if your willing to pay pounds pounds pounds & more pounds for a couple of years, so much for free, nothing free in this world, please enlighten me someone!
02/11/2011 00:06
2 month free trial....then it will be "to continue using this service sign-up to a 12 month package for as little as £7.99 per month"

02/11/2011 03:48
The scheme is a great idea as long as everyone knows about WPA2 security and PSK-AES-CCMP plus using long alpha numeric passwords.  No problem. Bet the hackers can't wait for the Olympics if it goes ahead.
Security is the big issue here. Anyone and everyone must be made aware of its importance and how to protect themselves correctly or face the consequences and i'm sure that Nokia and Spectrum will be gathering more than just data for their London dream.

02/11/2011 17:30
I'm glad to see my tax pound being pumped into London yet again. Already costing me a fortune for the Olympics. How about the rest of us getting a slice of the pie?
01/11/2011 21:12
I came back to the UK., after living in Asia for 16 year and wow, was I amazed, everywhere you look free this and free that, don't know why people are whinging about can't afford to live, here everything is free. I was in the Arndale shopping Centre in Manchester the other day and there's an ATM machine says FREECASH, so I thought I'll have some of that, stuck a card in it and got 50 quid out, thought wow this is too good to be true, it was, got home went on my internet banking and the so in so"s who own the FREECASH machine had swiped 50 quid out of my account, free, I don't believe a word of it lol!Confused
01/11/2011 20:49
It is a brilliant idea, lets hope it works and covers the whole of England.
01/11/2011 21:27
We have free wifi here in Manchester city centre, so I was led to believe. Ihave a Lebara pay as you go sim, for making cheap calls to my friends around the world. I was in Manchester, Piccadilly Gardens one day, saw a sign saying Manchester free wifi hot spot or words to that effect, so i thought nice one, opened my smart phones wifi, got a Cloud page opened in my browser, asked me for my O2 number, which comes with the O2 account, which I don't have, the rest is history, without the O2 number at the time, don't know if its changed now, you couldn't log onto the so called FREE WIFI.  I'm on BT with FREEWIFI HOTSPOTS, 42.70p a month for this FREE service now.
02/11/2011 04:19
Hope this new service is better than the spelling promoting it!!

Tottenham Court Toad???  Now which area in London is that please???

Check Spelling!!  Check Spelling!!  Check Spelling!!

02/11/2011 13:40
Seems like a good idea, would like it more on the underground as I spend 60% of my life on the damn thing!! But I can't imagine it being too secure... hmm, prone to more internet fraud?
01/11/2011 20:27

love to use it, always starts in London, get rid of my landline then


02/11/2011 08:14

Hackers and crackers (not to mention The Sun newspaper! Eye-rolling), are going to have a field day with this! Wink

How many people out there will have any sort of firewall installed on their gizmos, not to mention antivirus protection? Smile

02/11/2011 09:43
FREE  , my **** so if it went country wide who'd be paying thieving BT the millions there losing per household @ 22.50 a month ? i think its extortionate the price of internet access , is the guy below ( robin m ) for real ? 2 pounds a day ha thats over 720 pound a year just on an internet provider ? i own my phone line but it did not stop BT  charging me rental on my own line ?  it will never happen nationwide . only for the select few and another excuse for the corporate olympics to be treated special yet again . it should be reasonable say 2.50 - 5 pounds a week would be tolerable - FREE would be very reasonable .
01/11/2011 20:53

I'd definitely use it, it's about time someone took the bull by the horns and provided this service for free and it should be made made permanent.

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    Nik Taylor is a co-editor of MSN Tech & Gadgets, where he works alongside fellow editor Verity Burns to keep the site up to date.

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    Verity Burns is the co-editor of MSN Tech & Gadgets, teaming up with Nik Taylor to produce features and blogs.

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