back to article Virgin Media snags London Underground Wi-Fi monopoly

Virgin Media will be fitting 120 London tube stations with Wi-Fi, but once the Olympic summer is over the service will no longer be free and the firm will begin charging by the minute. Around 80 stations will initially be kitted out with wireless access in time for the Olympics, while the remaining 40 or so earmarked by …


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  1. Pete 2

    Putting out the best china

    It's amusing to watch all the London authorities trying to lay on a "do" for the olympics, only to pull all the special features as soon just as the (para)olympic flame gets extinguished. As if, somehow, it's all good enough for the visitors they hope to attract, but too good to "waste" on the people who have to live there all the time - the ones who's taxes are actually paying for the events.

  2. TRT Silver badge

    I've seen the London Underground version of Monopoly...

    is there a Virgin monopoly set as well?

  3. Tom Simnett


    Why can't they implement mobile networks like they do on the Paris Metro system. I had full phone and 3G access wherever I was at whatever level underground when I went. Trains, tunnels, stations, platforms... the lot.

    This just feels like a bit of palm-crossing.

    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      Re: Paris...

      I think it is something to do with a lot of the Tube being much deeper than the Metro. But still, could probably be implemented on the shallower tube lines like the Circle, District and Met.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Paris...

        Errr... depth has nothing to do with it. Mobile signals will have a tough time going through a couple of metres of earth / rock / concrete - so the additional depth of the tube over the Paris metro is meaningless.

        The Paris metro is covered by picocell devices (although there may be various others depending on the branding the manufacturer decides on a whim to apply to their kit).

    2. TheOtherHobbes
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Paris...

      That's because the UK is a shining world-class example of the benefits of market-led competitive capitalism, while France is run by socialist euro-scum surrender-monkeys who can't get anything right.

      Or maybe they're just better at planning.

    3. Ben 47

      Re: Paris...

      Because the mobile networks didn't want to do it

  4. waredrsr

    Worst business model ever?

    After the Olympics, do they seriously think that non-VM customers are going to pay more money on top of what they already pay for home & mobile broadband - for a service available only in some stations and only while you're not actually travelling? Or do they think the offer of the same pathetic marginal benefit for free will entice people to but all their b/b eggs in the VM basket?

    Also, how well is this service going to stand up to the demand while it is free? I hope TFL have got some robust SLAs in place.

    Sometimes it's worth saying in it full - I am most definetley Laughing Out Loud. Then I remember that it is our own money being wasted on this shit, so amend that to COL.

    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      Re: Worst business model ever?

      I think it's quite funny that it starts out "free" then you end up paying an arm-and-a-leg for it. After all, Virgin Media basically do that for all of their services so why should this be different?

      I'm with you - I suspect most people won't bother.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        No worse that BT Openzone/BT Fon that is expensive for non BT customers..

        Nice that I get something back as a VM customer..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worst business model ever?

      Some people actually do. It's ridiculous.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Worst business model ever?

      I'm dreading when it inevitably all goes pear shaped and you have to contact Virgin Media customer "service".

      Have you tried turning the tube on and off again?

      We don't support trains-Bye.

      Awating the Branston-with-horns icon.

  5. Blofeld's Cat


    There's got to be some sort of joke here involving virgins, trains and tunnels...

    Is it pub time yet?

    1. Roger Stenning

      Re: Hmm...

      I think it was something to do with being roped to the rails with a runaway monopoly on the way, or something?

  6. Mostly_Harmless Silver badge

    I appreciate that in the relatively short timeframe, the logistics involved in providing connectivity in tunnels as well as stations could well be prohitive. However, the point in the article about waiting times at stations is a good one - the majority of idle time during a journey is (generally) on the train itself rather than the platform.

    Personally, I'd find it frustrating to check my inbox before departure, and then pick up an email per station as I progressed along my journey.

    Seems like a good idea, but I suspect will fall short for overall user experience.

    I would hope that in the (heaven forbid) event of a major incident then the wifi network would be available for emergency services to use as they wish, with free access provided even once the charging period has commenced.

  7. Tim Jenkins


    Does that mean the Orange smart-phone models with Signal Boost (UMA) will be able to make and receive calls from the platforms?

    That could cause some interesting 'discussions' with users of other networks...

  8. Jim Morrow

    An Olympic record-sized epic fail

    Beardie the insufferable. Virgin Media. London Underground. Putting together three of the most shambolic of Blighty's institutions is a sure-fire winner. Doing this during the Olympics is just the cherry on top. What could possibly go wrong?

    The underground stations are already far, far too overcrowded and congested. What they REALLY need are swarms of dunderheads blocking every platform, escalator and passageway as they try to get their fondleslabs on to BeardieNet or gawp at kittens on YouTube. And then whining to the clueless LU goons when it doesn't work. This is going to have a very happy ending.

  9. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    As all the dealers say...

    ... the first sample is free...

  10. Anonymous Coward 15

    "will only extend to stations, not into trains or tunnels"

    Who wants to hang around the station when they could be in eg. a coffee shop?

  11. Iain 25


    Dwell time for tubes in stations is generally less than 60 seconds. That'll be just enough time for your laptop/tablet/phone to communicate with the router, receive an IP address, say "connection UP" ... before the train goes back into the tunnel and connectivity goes (literally) into a black hole.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    being a tube worker i can tell you why.

    11th march 2004 (cell phone activated)

    7th july 2005 (sucide but you get the drift)

    the Infrastructure is already there, connect radio brought the technology, it just needs to be connected up to a carrier. its has nowt to do with the level of the tunnels,

    well anonymously obviously!! - i would be sacked

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    F*ck the Olympics.

    It's not as if any Londoners will actually be allowed on the Tube during the Olympics anyway. It'll be all reserved for the drug addicts, their dealers, and the crooks in suits who control them.

    Boris has already told us to try not to go to work, get married or die while the Olympics are on - says it all really.

  14. TRT Silver badge

    So long as they can sort out auto-connect better than The Cloud. Currently with The Cloud you have to type in passwords and usernames (except Phones 4U customers) on a web page that comes up as a result of DNS redirection, meaning the whole process takes several minutes. This means you have to get your device out in public (mugging/snatch risk), reveal your password to shoulder surfers etc. If the whole connect and verify process can take under 15 seconds, then you could, just, pick up your emails as you go through a station.

    Also, the correlation of WiFi hardware addresses with GPS data might break unless there is some mechanism for manually entering the geo-location data, which means that a geo-logging service, like Track My iPhone or the security services, could follow you within a station. There is also the possiblity it could be used for terrorist activity, but there are enough other ways to achieve that kind of disruption.

  15. bertino

    Great big fat ARF!

    Virgin Media and Wifi?

    If any of you have to suffer the sorry excuse of wifi that comes with a 'superhub' you will understand my mirth!

    Wifi drops out all the time, streaming via superhub wifi nigh on impossible. There is an obvious firmware bug with the (netgear) supplied router/modem. Has been for months, and they are yet to fix it. Try support forum and they tell you about changing channels, dropping the wifi speed etc. Load of cack, it is a bug.

    You have to set up the superhub in modem mode, then connect to your own router.

    And they want to supply wifi for the underground?

    1. Chris 211

      Re: Great big fat ARF!

      The WiFi provided in the stations will be business level equipment and RF managed via controllers. A HUGE leap from your domestic home user low cost wifi netgear superhub. You need to use inSSIDer to find a free channel, 1, 6 or 11 and manually configure your superhub rather then let it default to channel 1.

  16. Nick Hill

    Seems good

    Provided I can actually get connected at each station... It's so frustrating working freelance and having to "go dark" as I have the audacity to travel to a clients site

    I actually use buses a lot these days just so I can stay connected

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Google Voice

      "having to "go dark" as I have the audacity to travel"

      In the US I use Google Voice as a primary number. It puts voicemail into email, very nice when you are 'going dark'... It will get to London eventually... Tries to forward a call first to my GrooveIP application, then places a physical call to my cellphone's SIM number, and finally tells the user to leave a message. Oh - and you can upload an MP3 of the message you want to use, editing it on real recording equipment...

      Sigh... if only...

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