Nokia Launches Free Wi-Fi Trial in London

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Nokia and Spectrum Interactive free Wi-Fi trial in London can be used by any device

Nokia and Spectrum Interactive haev announced the trial of a free Wi-Fi service across 26 locations in London.

The service is not limited to Nokia phones and can be used by any Wi-Fi enabled device during the trial, which lasts until December.

‘No limitations’

The test period will evaluate trends and assess demand before taking the service to other cities, however Nokia was keen to stress that no personal data would be collected.

Spectrum Interactive, despite having a lower profile than The Cloud or BT OpenZone, claims to be the UK’s leading independent Wi-Fi operator, with hotspots at hotels and airports. It 1,000 hotspots installed in payphones, but only use 26 during the trial, all of them in London’s West End. Users will be able to find their nearest hotspot using Nokia Maps.

There will be no limitations on usage and the service boasts 1mbs download and 0.5mbs upload speeds, although these could be upgraded. Each payphone should have a signal radius of 50-100 metres and the idea of using street furniture for future access points has been floated.

Nokia and Spectrum are adamant that the service is “as secure as it could be” and the possibility of restricting activities such as online banking due to safety concerns has been ruled out.

Simon Alberga, executive chairman of Spectrum Interactive, commented, “While 4G mobile access is firmly on the horizon, Wi-Fi coverage currently fills a much needed niche between 3G mobile internet and home broadband.”

Next billion

Nokia has said that the trial is important to its aim of getting the “next billion” people online and that the free service represents an opportunity to connect with its customers. Nokia would not however divulge details of how much the project would cost, or who would fund it beyond stating that it was a partnership between Nokia Global and Nokia UK.

Nokia’s “next billion” strategy was expanded upon last week at Nokia World where as well as launching high end Lumia phones, the manufacturer nveiled its new affordable Asha range of phones aimed at encouraging the adoption of internet in developing countries.

“Nokia believes you can upgrade everyday moments to make them amazing. Providing free Wi-Fi access to London commuters and visitors does just that. On-the-go internet access has become an indispensible part of modern life,” John Nichols, head of marketing at Nokia, said, “Nokia is pleased to sponsor this pilot which we hope will connect people even more easily than ever before.”

Other such initiatives in London have included a partnership between BT and Heineken to provide free WiFi in 100 London pubs, while The Cloud announced a service which offered Londoners 15 minutes of free surfing  a day.

The government is also said to planning a free Wi-Fi network in London for next summer’s Olympic Games, although plans to roll out WiFi access on London underground services have been shelved by TfL.

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