Free wi-fi in central London promotion launched

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Nokia free wi-fi hotspots
Image caption,
Most of the free hotspots are in and around London's Oxford Street

Nokia has switched on a trial of a free wi-fi service in central London.

From today until the end of 2011, the public will be able to use the high-speed service in certain parts of the city courtesy of the phone firm.

If the two-month trial is deemed a success, the Finnish company plans to turn it into a fully fledged free wi-fi service early in 2012.

The initiative is one of many that will eventually see London dotted with hotspots offering free net browsing.

Trial run

Nokia has set up 26 hotspots to support the service and these are largely concentrated around West End shopping areas. Victoria, Marylebone and Westminster will also get access points. The firm said people would not need to register or sign in to use the wi-fi.

The offer is the largest such project Nokia has set up. It said it was considering repeating the exercise in cities in Africa and India where telecoms infrastructure is poor.

The hotspots will be located on phone boxes owned and operated by project partner Spectrum Interactive. It said that the full service would involve using many more of its 1,000 sites in London.

The hotspots are built around web links that run at 20 megabits per second but download speeds will be limited to a maximum of 1 megabit per user to ensure others can get at the service.

"The trial is going to help us understand what people are using it for so we can improve it in the future," said Craig Hepburn, Nokia's director of digital and social media.

Free wi-fi is already widely available in London. In particular, London's financial district, the Square Mile, has had free wi-fi provided by The Cloud for years.

In Central London free wi-fi is available generally via solitary access points in shops, hotels, pubs and bars. In addition some ISPs, such as BT, give their subscribers free wi-fi via their own-brand wireless services.

The fragmented nature of existing services has led the Greater London Authority to encourage boroughs to set up free wi-fi along the busiest streets. Projects for wi-fi in Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea as well as Hammersmith & Fulham and other regions are believed to be in the closing stages of negotiation.

There are also ongoing talks to put wi-fi on London tube stations so passengers can browse the web while they wait for a train.

There is also a plan to provide free wi-fi in and around London for the 2012 Olympics to help visitors and tourists find their way around and to make it easier for the sights and sounds of the games to be shared.

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