In a rather surprise move, mobile operator O2 has announced that it intends to offer completely free wireless Internet across much of London in time for the London 2012 Olympics.
The first part of this rollout covers an even stranger region of central Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, although details as to exactly why they’ve chosen some of the richest parts of the capital are unclear.
Assuming O2 manage to pull this off in the next 200 days, in theory at least you’ll be able to take your laptop, smartphone or tablet anywhere in Greater London and receive completely free wi-fi.
Whats’ the catch? There doesn’t really appear to be one, although as you might guess there’s a limit on the amount of data you can download each month, but no contracts & no fees makes this still worthwhile.
The people who should be most worried about this as BT Openzone and The Cloud who charge people for wi-fi access or require you to be an existing Internet customer in the case of BT. Whether the network will be able to cope in the same way as the latter will remain to be seen as O2 haven’t always had the best reputation for keeping things going.
The costs: O2 haven’t released any exact figures, but taken as part of their nationwide planned rollout of a similar service, it could cost several million. The most likely source of income from this is businesses offering the service (aka. paying O2) and having their logos appear on the login page.
Will it be used? One thing that has surprised both BT and The Cloud is how little people actually use roaming Wi-Fi, but considering the % of the population with an iPhone or similar this really shouldn’t be that surprising to them. Plus patchy coverage means many simply switch to the fixed data-rate plans of their mobile providers…eg: the one offered by O2 as a bolton for £5/month.
Other London Wi-Fi: If Boris Johnson and Virgin get their act together travellers in London will soon be able to get free Wi-Fi on their buses too. Initially this will be 1/2 meg for non-Virgin customers and 10Mbit for customers, or at least that’s the hope.
Nokia are also looking to expand in the capital with around 12,000 hotspots planned after a recent trial of free Wi-Fi over Christmas. These should start popping up around early 2012 but no exact news on where they’ll appear yet.