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Nokia launches free Wi-Fi in UK

David Ludlow
1 Nov 2011
Nokia free Wi-Fi
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26 test sites in London

Getting a fast internet connection in the past for free has usually involved running into the nearest coffee shop, but from today Nokia and Spectrum Interactive are providing free Wi-Fi on the streets of London.

The initial trial sees 16 locations, including Oxford Circus, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria, converted into Wi-Fi hotspots that can be used by anyone with a wireless device; however, it's hoped that if it's successful, the service will be expanded to other areas.

Connection to the service is simple. Users just need to find the Free Nokia Wi-Fi SSID and connect to the network. Once they've agreed to the terms and conditions, their Wi-Fi device is remembered on the system and subsequent connections are instant. It marks a big change from existing hotspots, where users have to divulge personal data to register for the service.

"From tourists finding their way around the capital, to commuters updating Facebook or browsing on the move, we all depend on mobile to share our everyday experiences and enhance our lives. Nokia is pleased to sponsor this pilot which we hope will connect people even more easily than ever before," said John Nichols, head of marketing at Nokia.

Nokia is also integrating a hotspot finder into its Nokia Maps application, which will be available on its new flagship Windows Phone 7 Mango devices, such as the Lumia 800.

The service has been made possible by the existing phone box network, of which Spectrum Interactive manages 1,000 sites in London. For the trial 16 boxes have been upgraded with a DSL line and the Wi-Fi kit. Each hotspot has a 20Mbit/s line, although users will limited to a maximum of 1Mbit/s download and 500Kbit/s upload. Phone boxes don't have to be the limiting factor of the technology.

"We have plenty of phone boxes," said Simon Alberga, chairman of Spectrum Interactive, "but we're also discussing with partners that have street furniture."

Following the trial, the device types and usage patterns will be identified to see what kinds of traffic people are using and if bandwidth needs to be upgrade. Next year could see a wider roll-out of the service, with an ad-supported model likely to fund the venture.

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