Wi-Fi is going underground as half of the London Tube network gets a wireless Internet connection in time for the Olympics. You'll be able to use your smart phone, tablet or laptop on London Underground stations by June 2012, although trains will stay offline for now.
The service will kick off with London Underground opening the existing Wi-Fi for staff at 16 stations to the public. Some 120 stations will then follow Charing Cross's lead, where a Wi-Fi trial is currently taking place. The Charing Cross trial is run by BT Openzone.
BT Openzone allows customers of BT Fon and BT Total Broadband to use the Wi-Fi connection for free. Other passengers have to pay for a voucher. Other companies have been invited to bid for the contract to connect tube stations, as well as bus stops and bus stations above ground.
Wireless signals will be available on station platforms but not on the trains themselves -- which is a start, but doesn't strike as very useful if you're on a lengthy commute. Still, you will be able to quickly work out a new route if you discover there's a problem with the trains when you're already underground, or grab your email to peruse at leisure once you're on the train.
There are 289 stations on the London Underground network, serving more than 1 billion passengers each year -- but only 29 are south of the river. The deepest tunnel and highest point on the network are both on the Northern Line, deep below Hampstead and at the Dollis Hill viaduct.
The 120 stations will have Wi-Fi enabled by June 2012, in time for the London Olympics. Above ground, O2 is planning to offer free Wi-Fi to everyone, whether an O2 customer or not, while Virgin Media is reportedly planning a Wi-Fi network.