There could soon be a free Wi-Fi network across London

4th January 2024
Paige West

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has initiated the first phase towards enhancing Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the capital.

While many of London's businesses, public spaces, and cultural sites offer free Wi-Fi, these networks usually involve complex login processes each time they are used. The proposed open-access Wi-Fi network across London aims to provide a single, seamless experience, greatly enhancing accessibility and convenience for both residents and visitors. This initiative is expected to facilitate city navigation for tourists, support business activities, and cater to the increasing trend of remote working.

Free public Wi-Fi also plays a crucial role in social empowerment by providing access to essential information, such as job listings, health advice, and educational resources. This is particularly beneficial for international tourists, who often face high mobile roaming charges, and for Londoners seeking to manage their mobile data usage.

As a part of his Digital Access for All mission, Sadiq Khan has committed £20,000 to develop a plan with City Hall and London & Partners, the Mayor's business growth and destination agency, to upgrade Internet connectivity in the city. The plan will involve consultations with various stakeholders including the Wireless Broadband Alliance, Wi-Fi and mobile network providers, borough representatives, and cities experienced in delivering open-access Internet.

One potential solution is the implementation of an OpenRoaming network, allowing users to connect to Wi-Fi seamlessly across the city without requiring passwords or additional credentials. OpenRoaming has already seen successful trials in smaller London areas like the London Stadium and Canary Wharf.

This initiative aligns with the priorities of London’s Visitor Experience Strategy, led by London & Partners. The strategy focuses on enhancing the overall experience for tourists in London.

Sadiq Khan has also been instrumental in bringing high-speed mobile coverage to London’s transport network, with recent expansions including the central section of the Elizabeth Line. Currently, 20% of underground Tube platforms have mobile coverage, with expectations to double this by Spring 2024 as the rollout progresses.

Tourism, a vital component of London’s economy, employs 700,000 people, representing one in seven jobs in the capital and contributing 11.6% to the city's economic output.

A consultation, conducted by telecom and digital infrastructure experts, is set to deliver its recommendations early in the new year.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, stated: “Our capital is roaring back from the pandemic, with tourists from around the world joining Londoners in enjoying all of the fantastic attractions on offer.

“I want every Londoner and visitor to have the very best experience possible and in our connected world that means having access to fast, reliable, seamless Internet access. This consultation will be the first step towards delivering better digital services for all, building a better and more prosperous city for everyone.”

Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, said: “There’s a really exciting opportunity to make existing Wi-Fi networks easier to use by joining them up. This discovery will provide options around the feasibility of creating a seamless experience as people travel from place to place. It forms part of our work to improve digital access, which has seen a massive jump in gigabit connectivity to homes and businesses, and work with London’s boroughs to tackle digital exclusion.”

Laura Citron, CEO of London & Partners, added: "Having reliable, free Internet is important for our city's visitors. It's not just about being connected – it opens up new ways to explore London with guides, apps, and helpful services, making the overall visitor experience better. We look forward to seeing the recommendations early next year."

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