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London rolls out Europe’s largest free Wi-Fi zone in time for Olympics

UK mobile carrier O2 begins rolling out its free Wi-Fi service in London on Wednesday, just in time for the start of the Olympics.

Visitors and locals alike will be able to use their mobile device to hook up to the service – whether or not they’re an O2 customer. It’ll be available across large swathes of central London, including the borough of Westminster and at popular tourist spots such as Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and Leicester Square. O2 claims its service will form Europe’s largest free wireless hub.

When news of its intention was announced back in January, Westminster council’s Philippa Roe said, “Westminster welcomes over a million tourists a day, is home to 250,000 residents, employs over half a million people and sees 4,000 business start-ups each year.

“[The] Olympic Games mean that London will be putting on the biggest show on Earth….visitors to London will easily be able to share their pictures and updates of the Olympic events across social networking sites.”

A number of businesses – including McDonald’s, Debenhams and Costa Coffee – have also partnered with O2 to offer free Wi-Fi to customers at not only its London outlets but at all their respective stores throughout the UK.

Let’s hope O2’s new Wi-Fi service suffers none of the problems the firm had with its phone network earlier this month when around a third of its 23 million British-based users were unable to connect due to a network failure.

O2’s free Wi-Fi offering comes just after a similar service was launched at 80 stations on the city’s vast subway network. Even mini cab services in London are joining the free Wi-Fi party, with Green Tomato Cars’ 300 vehicles now offering the service (required password: ilovefreewifi).

With hundreds of thousands of extra visitors expected to pour into the capital during the Olympics, the abundance of free Wi-Fi could prove a boon for lost tourists who will hopefully be able to get back on track by quickly pulling up a map on their connected smartphone. Or they could always ask a local.

[Image: Alex Mit / Shutterstock]

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