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London tube to get Wi-Fi in time for Olympics — but it’s not all good news

Up until now, users of London’s sprawling subway system have had no way of browsing the web on their smartphones and tablets. However, according to an announcement by the city’s mayor, it looks like that could be about to change — and hopefully in time for the forthcoming Olympics.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Mayor Boris Johnson laid out plans for a new Wi-Fi service for parts of the UK capital’s underground train system. Initially, 80 of the network’s 276 stations will have Wi-Fi introduced, with plans for a further 40 by the end of the year.

The service, which should be available from July, will be free until after the Olympics when it will become a pay-as-you-go service. The sporting extravaganza begins on July 27 and finish August 12.

“Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information whilst on the move,” the mayor said in the statement. “This is a fabulous new and free resource which will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage and playing host to millions.”

Johnson said the contract had been awarded to telecoms company Virgin Media. Its chief executive, Neil Berkett, said of the deal: “We’ll help people make the most of the city and will continue to evolve the service, ensuring everyone can benefit from a service London will be proud of.”

It’s not all good news though, as the signal will only be available on platforms, escalators and in ticket halls — not on the trains themselves — so expect a flurry of activity on your carriage each time you pull into a station as everyone reaches for their mobile device. Apparently the cost of construction work to bring Wi-Fi to the subway trains is just too great at the current time.

Free Wi-Fi is also being rolled out above ground in some parts of the city in what is claimed will be Europe’s largest free wireless hub.

[Source: AP / BBC]  [Image: Jose AS Reyes / Shutterstock]