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TfL To Announce London Tube Wi-Fi Provider This Spring

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Winner will provide data services to 120 London Underground stations in time for the Olympic Games

Transport for London (TfL) is expected to announce the winner of the bid to provide Wi-Fi services to the London Underground network in time for this summer’s 2012 Olympic Game during the spring.

A gold medal may not be up for grabs, but the successful candidate will allow commuters to access data services at 120 tube stations.

Going Underground

According to the tender document, the supplier will host and operate a portal, which will provide media rich content free of charge, such as real-time travel information, news, sport and entertainment. Other data services and links to external sites may require a subscription and the supplier will manage all aspects of the service, including billing.

The service will be accessible at deep level underground stations, but not on the trains themselves.

Originally, TfL had said that the chosen bidder would be announced by the end of 2011, but it has promised that the contract will be in place with plenty of time before the Olympics. The contract is expected to last for five years, but could be extended if the venture proves successful.

TfL opened the bidding process in March last year, with the aim of having the network in operation by June 2012. This followed a BT Wi-Fi trial at Charing Cross station in November 2010, which, according to TfL, was greeted with enthusiasm by passengers. Over half said that Wi-Fi connectivity would make their underground journey a more pleasant experience.

However the scheme ran into difficulties when TfL momentarily shelved it after service providers became disillusioned when asked to fund the £150 million scheme. Worries about the project being completed in time also persisted as engineers were only given access to the tunnels for three hours each night.

The proposals form part of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s plans to provide a comprehensive Wi-Fi network in the city in time for the Olympics, a plan which was then extended to cover the tube and London buses.