Central London to have free Wi-Fi

LONDON — Free Wi-Fi began being offered in central London on Wednesay by Nokia and network partner Spectrum Interactive.

A trial for the service will last until the end of the year, but Nokia says it plans to make the service permanent from early 2012 if it proves to be a success.

Nokia, which recently embarked on a major marketing and advertising campaign for its new range of smartphones with accompanying apps, is keen to glean valuable customer activity usage from the wireless trial. If the service continues it will also prove to be a valuable free plug for the Finnish phone maker during the London Olympics.

Selective Media is also partnering on the project. It specialises in “monetising Wi-Fi”, primarily through advertising campaigns linked to wirleless access – which will be pushed as part of this project.

Meanwhile, Shaw Communications says it will start tests with Cisco Systems Inc. of its upcoming HotSpot 2.0 service in some Western Canadian cities. Customers of the Calgary-based cable company will be able to get Wi-Fi connectivity starting next spring.

The London Nokia/Spectrum trial is based on 26 hotspots largely located in London’s West End shopping area, but also includes a presence in Victoria, Marylebone and Westminster. Users do not need to register or sign in to use the Wi-Fi service.

If a full roll-out takes place next year, Spectrum is planning to extend the number of its wireless locations it makes available for the free service.

The City of London financial district already offers free Wi-Fi to workers and passersby through a deal with operator The Cloud, and BT Broadband customers can get free access to BT Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots in London and other towns and cities if they share their home wireless bandwidth with others.

Simon Alberga, executive chairman at Spectrum Interactive, said: “While 4G mobile access is firmly on the horizon, Wi-Fi coverage currently fills a much needed niche between 3G mobile internet and home broadband.”

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