02 has announced plans for what it says will be the largest free wireless hub in Europe covering two London boroughs.
The deal with Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea means visitors and residents will get access to free wifi access on their mobile phones, laptops and tablet devices.
The deal, which will run at no cost to the councils or the taxpayer, comes in advance of the Olympics and the Diamond Jubilee and is aimed at boosting the tourist experience of London as well as delivering longer term benefits to businesses.
Free wifi access will be available throughout Westminster and Kensington & 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 in January 2012. O2 Wifi launched in January 2011 with the ambition to roll out free, fast and open wifi, via strategic partnerships, across the UK.
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.”
Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer for O2, said: “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. Our longer-term aim is to expand our footprint of O2 Wifi, which is open to everyone, and also intelligently enhance our services at street level, where people need the network the most.
“Our £500m annual network investment programme is focussed on integrating new layers of technology into the existing network to enable a seamless and sustained customer experience. We are driven entirely by our customers’ needs and believe that services should be delivered in the best possible way, across multiple networks and supported by different technologies.”