Virgin will wholesale the Tube's Wi-Fi to other operators

Cable TV giant Virgin Media, which earlier this year won the nod to supply Wi-Fi service in London Underground stations during and after this summer's Olympic Games, intends to offer wholesale access to the network later this year.

Virgin has solicited mobile network operators Vodafone and O2 as well as Internet service providers BT and TalkTalk, according to an article in the Financial Times, which said the wholesale arrangement is slated for introduction after September. Companies that sign up will be able to market the Wi-Fi delivered service over Virgin's network under their own brand.

Extra funding is needed by Virgin to maintain the Wi-Fi network and expand its reach. "We expect capacity to exceed the infrastructure capabilities," Andrew Barron, Virgin's COO, told the Financial Times. "There will be substantial funding implications."

Barron reported that "tens of thousands" of customers have signed up for the service, which is currently available in 20 of London Underground's Tube stations. The Financial Times said the Wi-Fi network's download speed tested out at 20 Mbps.

The subway Wi-Fi service is slated for operation in more than 80 Tube stations in time for the Olympics, which run July 27-through August 12. Virgin intends to have more than 120 Tube stations 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 is considered unfeasible.

The Wi-Fi service will be free during the Olympics but that offer will expire after this summer for all but Virgin's mobile and broadband customers, changing into a pay-as-you-go model for other users who want Wi-Fi access on the London Underground.

 For more:
- see this Financial Times article (sub. req.)

Related articles:
Massive Wi-Fi deployments on track for London Olympics
Virgin Media to provide free Wi-Fi on London Tube
City of London renews Wi-Fi contract with The Cloud
London's mayor worries Olympics will stretch networks to breaking point
UK operators not bringing mobile coverage to Tube for London Olympics
London's underground railway network to install Wi-Fi in time for Olympics