Virgin Media awarded contract to provide Wi-Fi on the Underground

By Sooraj Shah
15 Mar 2012 View Comments
London Underground escalator

Virgin Media has been awarded a contract to provide Wi-Fi on more than 80 Underground station platforms for public access in time for the London Olympics.

The aim is for Virgin Media to provide a free, unlimited Wi-Fi service from July 2012 and then after the Games turn it into a pay-as-you-go service, available as part of the operator's broadband and mobile subscription packages.

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According to Virgin Media, up to 120 stations will be connected by the end of 2012, and live Transport for London (TfL) travel information via a new online portal will be made available from the summer for free, and will continue to be free after the Olympics.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said that the Wi-Fi contract was essential to bring the UK up to date digitally and allow connectivity for tube passengers during the London 2012.

""Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information while on the move.

"This is a fabulous new and free resource that will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage," he said.

Gareth Powell, London Underground's director of strategy and service development, explained that customers will have access to emails, social media and travel information.

But Vinod Bange, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing, suggested that while there are benefits of using free Wi-Fi, there are also security issues that need to be addressed.

"Companies often stipulate to their employees that when accessing work, whether by email or otherwise, this should only be done using secure internet access. Logging on to an unsecure Wi-Fi network can open up the personal and corporate information on your computer, tablet, smartphone or other such device, to any nearby hackers," he said.

In February, TfL CIO Steve Townsend told Computing that Wi-Fi would be available on London's Underground stations this year.

He said that the information transferred to devices using Wi-Fi would have to be properly governed.

"We're running a safety-critical service for London. We need the blend of freedom of any device, including bring-your-own, wrapped around a set of policies that keep the networks governed to the standards desired by the inspectorates," he said.

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