For more than a year Londoners have been teased with the promise of WiFi hotspots at Underground station ticket halls and platforms, with BT running trials in November 2011 at Charing Cross station.
Despite BT’s efforts, earlier this year it was Virgin Media who were awarded the contract to provide internet services and equipment on the network.
First WiFi Stations Announced
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been a vocal supporter of making London a ‘WiFi hotspot’ and today the first 82 London Underground stations to get connected were announced, in time for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Although initially only being available in the most frequented stations, Virgin Media plans to roll out the service to about half the network, 120 stations, by the end of 2012.
And the best part is it will be free to use… well, until the end of the Paralympics when it will move to a pay-as-you-go service for everything other than TfL travel information.
The other downside is that, due to the tight gap between the trains and tunnels, WiFi will only be available in station ticket halls and at platforms; it’s predicted that travellers will draft their emails and texts between stations and hit send at the next connected platform, a trend Londonist has dubbed ‘gapsurfing’
Security Fears Dissuade Londoners
It would appear to be all good news for London’s infrastructure; however, despite the commercial and social benefits of being online while underground, a survey conducted by MyVoucherCodes in March 2012 suggested Londoners aren’t so keen on the scheme. Of the 950 respondents, aged 18+, a staggering 55% answered “no” when asked if they were in favour of WiFi on the Underground.
The main areas of concern for most were Internet security, theft of personal items and space issues from people using laptops on the tube.
With a pre-Olympic launch date, TfL hopes that connectivity on the network will allow Londoners to plan their journeys more efficiently and avoid congested hotspots.
Tell us what you think
Are you in favour of introducing WiFi onto the Underground? How will being connected while commuting benefit you the most?