The dream of a London Underground network that is totally Internet connected will be a step closer to reality next week, as BT announced Charing Cross would be the first Tube station to have Wi-Fi access.
The service is due to start on 1 November and will be trialled for six months, allowing people to log on to the Internet from Charing Cross ticket hall area, as well as the Northern and Bakerloo line platforms. There won't be access in the actual trains, apart from a few seconds when the doors are open -- or if your train is stuck.
Live Transport for London updates won't cost you anything, but the wider Web will only be free for BT broadband users who have unlimited BT FON Wi-Fi minutes, or people on BT Openzone. If you have Wi-Fi minutes as part of your contract, you can also use the BT Openzone network. This might apply if you're on O2, Tesco Mobile, Vodafone or Orange. For other users, you can buy a BT Openzone voucher online.
One of the major goals for London mayor Boris Johnson is to bring mobile phone reception to the Tube network by the 2012 Olympics. Wi-Fi connectivity is a different kettle of fish, as you won't be able to make calls, unless you decide to use VoIP services such as Skype. Your fellow passengers are sure to welcome the fact you won't be able to have conversations on the Tube -- it's so loud you couldn't hear anything anyway.
But being able to use smart phone services while waiting for a train would be extremely useful, and make our crowded journeys slightly more bearable.
As the Glasgow subway shows, it's possible to have a transport system that is wirelessly connected. Rolling it out to the whole of London's vast underground network will be a huge task, but if Johnson can twist the arms of massive companies like BT, it could conceivably happen in the next 18 months.