O2 provides free Wi-Fi to London


Free O2 Wi-Fi relieves network from Olympic pressure this summer

Tourists, visitors and Londoners alike can enjoy free O2 Wi-Fi in some of the busiest parts of London this summer. O2 has launched the service to relieve the network of extra pressure from the boom in tourist numbers in the capital during the Olympics.

Areas including Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus and Exhibition Road are among the seven squares and shopping streets benefiting from the deal between Westminster City Council, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and communications provider O2. Available in some areas now, the full service will be available from the end of July.

Running at no cost to the council or the taxpayer, the scheme enables millions of people living in or visiting the capital to enjoy fast, free, reliable Wi-Fi while out and about. O2 Wi-Fi is free for everyone, regardless of network or broadband provider.

Once registered, customers will be automatically connected each time they enter a coverage area. With over a million visitors and commuters daily and a 13% increase expected during the summers' festivities according to research from travel data intelligence firm, ForwardKeys, the new network will enable Londoners and visitors to the city share their pictures and updates of the events, or check on transport links, for free.

Cambridge Broadband Networks, a British company working in the development and deployment of next generation mobile backhaul technologies, is working with O2 to help backhaul the operator's free Wi-Fi network.

The small cell Wi-Fi network consists of over 100 Wi-Fi access points mounted on street furniture, such as lampposts, across the London Boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, to deliver the outdoor Wi-Fi experience for O2's customers in London this summer. Traffic from the Wi-Fi network will be aggregated across the mesh and transferred to a number of VectaStar point-to-multipoint nodes, where it will be backhauled to a hub in central London.

The VectaStar multipoint microwave backhaul technology, an advance on traditional microwave technologies, mirrors the network configuration found in the radio access network (the interface between cell tower and mobile handset), and allows O2 to backhaul mobile traffic from multiple small cell networks to a single aggregation point. This change in backhaul network architecture delivers cost and efficiency benefits, particularly for next generation mobile, the company said.

Content on the homepage will be automatically updated depending on the users' location and UK department store, House of Fraser, will be the first exclusive advertiser across the outdoor O2 Wi-Fi network.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: 'With millions of extra people coming to town for the Games, we want to ensure we showcase the capital as the best city in the world to work and visit, and the addition of free Wi-Fi to some of our most popular landmarks is crucial in helping to maintaining that reputation.'

A recent survey of Westminster residents revealed that 69% own a smartphone compared to 43% of the total UK population. This figure rises to 81% among 25 to 44 year olds in Westminster and even 25% of over 60s have a smartphone. In addition, 23% of all Westminster residents own an iPad compared to just 12% of the population nationwide, proving Westminster residents to be some of the most connected in the UK, said TNS Research.

Gavin Franks, managing director at O2 Wi-Fi, said: 'We are proud to announce that today, we can bring O2 Wi-Fi to some of the busiest streets and squares of central London. We are now providing Londoners and visitors alike with fast, free, reliable Wi-Fi when visiting some of the busiest areas in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. This comes after a succession of venue announcements with partners like Costa Coffee, House of Fraser and McDonald's. O2 Wi-Fi was launched fifteen months ago and in that time we have transformed the Wi-Fi market with innovation and fresh thinking.'


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