London commuters are enjoying their first taste of Wi-Fi underground, as Virgin Media’s rollout of a free-to-use network gets underway.
The telco switched on the first two London Underground stations yesterday, and is due to switch another two on today, with a following pair slated to be lit tomorrow. The stations are the first in a deployment that Virgin claims will cover 80 stations by end-July, and 120 by the year-end.
While initial services are free – the network is offering Transport for London travel information, daily activity recommendations, movie news and trailers and exclusive music – Virgin seems set to charge commuters for accessing the full internet via the network. The firm states it is offering services for free to all passengers during the summer, but will then only offer free access to its own subscribers with pay-as-you-go options for non-customers.
Virgin Media chief Neil Berkett hailed the fact the firm has deployed the Wi-Fi network in under three months. “This is a truly historic moment as we connect millions of Tube passengers to the wonderful world of the internet for the first time ever,” he notes.
Boris Johnson, London’s elected Mayor, says the Wi-Fi network “will be of tremendous benefits as building world class connectivity is critical to supporting new businesses and the jobs they create.”
Despite the enthusiasm, Ian Brown, chief executive of wireless coverage firm Axell Wireless, believes Virgin’s network doesn’t go far enough. He told TelecomsEMEA.net Transport for London should now be pushing wireless connectivity onto the underground trains themselves, to provide voice, messaging and data services.