A new WiFi service on London’s Underground is to be used to guide visitors around during the Olympic Games.
Now available at more than 40 Tube stations and being used by over 100,000 passengers, the Virgin Media service has already been used to deliver one million Tweets, Facebook posts, emails and web pages in a single week as, for the first time, commuters are able to take advantage of the internet while underground.
It means that throughout the 2012 Games and beyond, passengers can check out Transport for London (TfL) travel pages for live journey information as well as Time Out, Spotify and MyMovies.Net for free from Tube platforms. The service is expected to be extended to 120 stations by the end of the year and is predicted to prove invaluable for passengers trying to make their way through London during the 2012 Olympics.
Kevin Baughan, director of Metro Wireless at Virgin Media, said: “Londoners and visitors are loving our new WiFi service and we’re on track to connect Tube journeys right across London ahead of the Games. With millions of smartphones, gadgets and devices taken onto the Tube each day, the demand for data continues to grow and we’re rolling out a future-proofed service that makes superfast wireless broadband connections the standard.”
Gareth Powell, London Underground’s director of strategy and service development, added: “WiFi at Tube stations is proving extremely popular with our customers. Millions of commuters and visitors from around the world are now able to keep up with live travel updates, news and entertainment throughout an incredible summer and beyond.”
Virgin Media is offering free, full internet access throughout the summer and, afterwards, the WiFi portal with TfL travel information, updates and London news and entertainment will remain for all Tube passengers.
In addition, Virgin Media is offering mobile operators, internet service providers and other service providers the opportunity to make it freely available to their own customers.
To use the new service, all passengers need to do is connect to the service and register their email address. Hundreds of access points have already been installed that are now WiFi enabled, providing passengers with good coverage from the time they buy their tickets down to the platforms.
While most people have welcomed the move to finally bring internet connection to the Tube, the development has come in for some criticism. London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon has raised concerns that the service may only be free to Virgin Media customers once the Olympic Games has finished.
Regardless of these concerns, the take up of the service with consumers has so far proved impressive. Although, while appetite for the wireless proposition has been high, the test of its popularity could come after the Games when Virgin Media starts charging non-customers for access. Also, many commuters are now waiting for the next move – the time when they can use WiFi for their entire journey.