UK carrier O2 will be rolling out its ambitious free WiFi network this month, just in time to let the throngs of tourists update their Facebook statuses during the 2012 Olympic Games and Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee. The plan will cover London's Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea boroughs, creating Europe's largest free wireless network, according to O2. The deal, which the company adds will not be footed by the taxpayer, is part of a larger plan announced this time last year. Official information and lots of quotes from important sounding people after the break.
Landmark deal creates Europe's largest free wifi zone
Visitors to and residents in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are to enjoy free wifi access on their mobile phones, laptops and tablet devices following a landmark deal between Westminster City Council, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and network operator O2. The deal will result in the largest free wireless hub in Europe, making free wifi available to millions of residents and visitors.
The deal, which will run at no cost to the councils or the taxpayer, 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 - whilst 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."
Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Environment at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said: "I am very pleased that we have been able to come to this agreement and we look forward to working with O2. Residents and visitors having free access to the latest mobile technology will help us to continue to offer value for money for residents."
Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer for O2 said, "This groundbreaking 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."