Virgin Scores Underground Wi-Fi Deal

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

Virgin customers get free Wi-Fi in the London Underground after the Olympics are over

Virgin Media has been handed the much sought-after Underground Wi-Fi contract, allowing it to install services at up to 120 stations.

The ISP has committed to bringing Wi-Fi to at least 80 Tube stations by July, although passengers will not be able to access the Web on the carriages themselves. Services will initially be free for all Tube passengers in time for the Olympics.

Free… for Virgin customers

However, after this period, Virgin’s broadband and mobile subscribers will be the only ones to get the services for free. People on other networks will have to get online via a pay-as-you-go model.

A Virgin Media spokesperson told TechWeekEurope that it was looking into other models. These could include providing access in a wholesale manner, charging rivals for offering services over its kit. BT said it had no comment on the deal.

“It’s vital that we harness the massive opportunities stemming from the digital revolution, by creating a vibrant, world class industry to attract investment and create jobs for Londoners,” said Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

“Millions of passengers will now be able to connect to their work, friends or access the latest news and travel information whilst on the move. This is a fabulous new and free resource which will be in place from this summer when London is being showcased on a global stage and playing host to millions.”

Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, said the company’s fibre infrastructure would be used to provide the backbone of the service.

“We’ll help people make the most of the city and will continue to evolve the service, ensuring everyone can benefit from a service London will be proud of,” Berkett added.

There has been plenty of competition for the Wi-Fi Underground contract and other related telecoms deals, which was reportedly ditched last year.

Huawei had offered £50 million to provide the equipment that would allow people to make calls on the Tube. Then talks between Transport for London and Thales over installing Wi-Fi kit broke down. TfL made an announcement in January, however, saying it would reveal the provider by spring.