Virgin Media to provide free Wi-Fi on London Tube

Cable giant Virgin Media won its bid to provide free Wi-Fi in the London Underground for this summer's Olympic Games and will be a long-term provider of paid access in the subway's stations afterward as well.

Service is slated to begin in July 2012. Virgin, in partnership with London Underground, intends to outfit more than 80 of the Tube's stations with Wi-Fi in time for the Olympics and hopes to have more than 120 outfitted by year's end. However, only ticket offices, escalators and platforms will get the Wi-Fi service because adding service to the Tube's tunnels was considered unfeasible.

"We're putting the power of Virgin Media's fiber-optic network in the hands of millions of Londoners, commuters and visitors and are delighted to be launching Wi-Fi for free throughout summer 2012 and beyond," said Neil Berkett, CEO, Virgin Media."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."

Gareth Powell, London Underground's director of strategy and service development, said, "This latest innovation is great news for Tube customers, who now have access to emails, web and social media underground for the first time. It's also delivered at no cost to fare payers and taxpayers."

The free Wi-Fi service will expire after this summer for all but Virgin Media's mobile and broadband customers, changing into a pay-as-you-go model for users who want Wi-Fi access in the Tube. Virgin said it will also operate the network under "other commercial models" but did not provide specifics. Those who try to access the service after the Olympics but are not Virgin customers and are unwilling to pay will find themselves routed to a free, online portal providing London travel information but no other Internet access.

According to the BBC, Huawei had proposed to install 3G phone and data services throughout the Tube, but Transport for London (TfL) opted not to implement that plan.

For more:
- see this release
- see this BBC article
- see this TechRadar article