London to get Europe’s largest, free Wi-Fi zone

6 Jan 2012

In what has been described as a landmark deal between O2, Westminster City, and the boroughs of Chelsea and Kensington, London is going to receive the largest, free wireless hub in Europe. This is just the start of a movement that will see similar free Wi-Fi zones rolled out across the UK, O2 says.

Millions of residents and visitors to London will be able to log onto the internet at for free.

The deal, which will run at no cost to the councils or the taxpayers, is part of both councils’ plans to ensure that the millions of visitors that come to the city have the best experience possible and can make the most of what London has to offer – particularly given the double celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee and 2012 Olympic Games taking place this year – while delivering longer-term benefits to businesses.

Free Wi-Fi access will be available throughout Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea once the Metro wireless network is installed on the street furniture.

It will initially be rolled out in a limited number of areas and then throughout the boroughs over the longer term.

O2 will begin installing the network this month. O2 Wi-Fi launched in January 2011 with the ambition to roll out free, fast and open Wi-Fi, via strategic partnerships, across the UK.

“This ground-breaking deal – the first of its kind in the UK – will see us deliver high quality connectivity across London in time for London 2012,” said Derek McManus, chief operating officer at O2.

“Our longer-term aim is to expand our footprint of O2 Wi-Fi, which is open to everyone, and also intelligently enhance our services at street level, where people need the network the most.

“Our stg£500m annual network investment programme is focused on integrating new layers of technology into the existing network to enable a seamless and sustained customer experience.”

Cllr Philippa Roe, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance at Westminster City Council, said: “This is a landmark achievement for Westminster; 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 starts-ups each year.

“Next summer’s Olympic Games mean that London will be putting on the biggest show on Earth and as Westminster has a starring role, visitors to London will easily be able to share their pictures and updates of the Olympic events across social networking sites,” Roe said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years