The perfect companion for the London commuter
With the excuse of the olympics and in order to look like a modern organised city, London it's upgrading some of its Underground stations with free public Wi-Fi. A selection of tube stations, more specifically ticket halls and platforms, are getting the treatment. This summer don't look surprised if you see people sitting on the floor with their laptops seeing trains pass… The WiFi signal unfortunately doesn't cover the trains.
If you've seen the posters in your local station, you're part of the lucky ones. The Wi-Fi programme, which comes though a partnership with Virgin Media, is rolling out in 80 stations, mostly in Zone 1. The full list is available at Transport for London's website. Spotting the free network is pretty easy, and the good news is that you can get it working for free rather quickly.
Activating the free Wi-Fi on your iPhone
The following process is dead easy and should be similar with most devices. If you're using an iPhone, navigate to Settings and tap on the second option called Wi-Fi. This will differ with other devices but the rest of the steps have to be the same. Once you are connected to the Virgin Media Wi-Fi, launch Safari, which will, load automatically the URL wifi.virginmedia.com. To activate the service you need to provide an email address and accept the terms and conditions. Virgin will send you a confirmation email, so this is a good way to test if the connection is working.
Connection to the free Wi-Fi on the Tube will load the default page, which contains some useful travel links, a prominent eBay banner and that's about it. The sad news is that the service is likely to turn paid for non customers after the Olympics, with the option to subscribe on a pay as you go basis.
Perhaps seeing the congestion and the crowds we are getting right now, it wouldn't be advisable to give commuters more excuses to dive in their smartphone's screens. The pricing can also be a deal-breaker if you don't have cable service with Virgin. Having a public Wi-Fi, however, is a great service for people that don't necessarily use the Tube everyday and that could find the free information available useful. During my tests this week I found it's very difficult to get the phone to connect to the Wi-Fi network when the train is on the move — there's not enough time stopping at the platform — and I want to see how my email addition evolves with this. Hopefully my fellow Tube passengers won't mind!
About the Journey Planner series
The Journey Planner series is a collection of posts where I try apps and services that make commuting in London more enjoyable. I have tested apps that tell you the next bus arriving at your stop, find the best spot on the platform and explores different ways to enjoy the Boris bikes. I'm always looking for new challenges and at the moment I'm looking for alternatives to ringing your local minicab.