Friday, 29 October 2010

[news]Wi-fi trial will let commuters browse internet on Underground

Wi-fi trial will let commuters browse internet on Underground
Mark Prigg, Science and Technology Editor

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Commuters will be able to go online at Tube stations for the first time in a groundbreaking trial starting on Monday.

It will mean thousands of commuters at one of London's busiest stations will be able to read their email, browse the internet and even watch live TV via wi-fi hotspots.

If successful, the trial at Charing Cross could be rolled out to the capital's busiest stations within months.

"This will change the way we commute," said Will Findlater, editor of Stuff magazine.

"It's a big step forward for the Tube network, bringing it into line with the rest of the transport system. It will be a real help by allowing people to communicate on their commute."

Boris Johnson has pledged to enable wireless access across the network by the 2012 Olympics.

"This trial will allow commuters to check their emails and browse the net while on the go," said Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's transport adviser.

London Underground has teamed up with BT Openzone to launch the six-month trial. It will see wi-fi hotspots installed in the ticket hall and Northern and Bakerloo line platforms. Although it will not give access to mobile phone networks, users will be able to use internet services such as Skype to make calls.

BT says other key stations on the Tube network are likely to be brought online before the trial ends.

"The idea is to let people access email, Facebook and even sites like the BBC's iPlayer while they are waiting for a train," said Marjorie Leonidas from BT Openzone.

Plans to roll out the system have not been finalised. "These are baby steps to see if people are happy with the service," said Miss Leonidas.

The move will bring London up to speed with other cities such as Barcelona, Glasgow and New York, where trials are already under way to offer wi-fi and phone coverage underground.Mobile phone operators are developing plans to allow calls to be made on Tube platforms and even on trains.

Richard Parry, strategy and commercial director for London Underground, said: "We hope that our customers will find it useful."

How does it work?
BT Openzone has installed wi-fi hotspots on platforms and in ticket halls at Charing Cross. The hotspots let commuters connect to BT's network from underground in exactly the same way they would connect to their home wi-fi. The service will use the wi-fi system already in place at Charing Cross for underground staff.

How much will it cost?
Accessing TfL's website and the “rainbow” status boards will be free. Other services require a subscription to BT's Openzone network of wi-fi hotspots, which is bundled with BT Broadband and mobile contracts with O2, Tesco Mobile, Vodafone and Orange.

When will it be available in all stations?
Boris Johnson has pledged to enable wireless access across the network by the 2012 Olympics. Detailed plans for the rollout have not yet been made public.

What about phone calls?
Mobile phone operators are formulating plans to allow calls on both platforms and trains. No details have been released, although O2 has carried out successful trials on Glasgow's subway system.

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