Wi-Fi is going underground

Last week, BT Openzone and TFL annouced a deal to provide Wi-Fi to the underground network in London, starting with Charing Cross Tube station as a trial.

The initial coverage area will be the ticket hall area and Northern and Bakerloo line platforms at the Charing Cross station and the idea is that commuters will be able to get real time updates on trains and travel info in areas considered to be Mobile Network dead spots.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s Transport Adviser, said: ‘An ever growing commuter populous has been clamouring to be able to check their emails and browse the net whilst on the go.

‘This trial at Charing Cross will allow them to do just that whilst on the Tube platform.

‘This is an important step towards seeing how this could be achieved and is part of the Mayor’s ambition to examine ways in which we can use technology to adapt the city’s transport system to meet the needs of those using it.’
Richard Parry, Strategy and Commercial Director for London Underground, said: ‘Around 68,000 passenger journeys are made a day at Charing Cross Tube station.

‘We hope that our customers will find it useful to have access to the internet while they are using the Tube station during this six-month trial.

‘Live service updates will allow passengers to check the status of the Tube and other transport services while they are on the move at the station.’

Chris Bruce, CEO, BT Openzone, said: ‘Wi-Fi is rapidly becoming the simplest way for people to access the internet when out and about and with the launch of this trial at Charing Cross we are now giving commuters the chance to enjoy the UK’s biggest Wi-Fi network.’

This trial is part of TfL’s strategy to use innovative and additional channels in order to make information even more accessible to customers.

The trial is being funded through BT with no cost to fare or taxpayers.

It’s a good deal for commuters however I think the only people who will benefit are those who are either BTOpenzone subscribers, BTFon customers or people who get complimentary access through their iPhone or Blackberry smart phone.  For me, I think there will be good ‘usage’ but the commercials for standard Wi-Fi operators simply don’t stack up as people are unlikely to purchase time due to only being on the platform for at most ten minutes.  So we must thank BTO for continuing to throw money at public projects such as this.

What is missing here, is complete Wi-Fi coverage of the underground network which could be achieved cheaply and easily with a leaky Wi-Fi pipe.

I’m not sure what will deem the trail at this station a success or failure but I look forward to (someday) full underground Wi-Fi coverage, be that with BTO or another provider.




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