Plan for open access wifi network across London

Mayor looking into potential of a free open-access wifi network running across the capital in game-changing plan for city infrastructure. 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has allocated £20,000 to the creation of a plan to improve internet connectivity for Londoners and visitors to the city.  

landscape photography of a city

City Hall, the Shard and other London buildings, photo by Richard R. Schünemann

Of course, many businesses, public bodies and popular cultural attractions in London already offer free wifi – but these often require users to sign up to particular provider systems and log in each time they use them. An open-access network would be more convenient and seamless, and well as increasing accessibility. 

The result would have multiple benefits such aiding business transactions and enhancing social empowerment, with people of all backgrounds able to access key information such as health advice, job opportunities and online courses. Many Londoners already take advantage of free wifi hotspots to save money otherwise spent on mobile data plans. 

Such a system would also help visitors to London navigate the city. Indeed, visitors from outside the UK – including those from Europe now that the UK has left the EU – can face high mobile roaming costs for using 4G and 5G services here.  

Improving internet connectivity is a key priority in London’s Visitor Experience Strategy, developed by leading business growth and destination agency London & Partners in consultation with the wider tourism industry. The agency is again leading on this new initiative, which will be paid for out of the wider Digital Access for All initiative. 

The mayor’s team will consult stakeholders such as the Wireless Broadband Alliance, wifi and mobile network operators, London boroughs that oversee key destinations across the capital and other cities in the UK and abroad with experience in delivering this kind of open access internet. 

Some solutions have already been suggested. An OpenRoaming network could allow users to  connect seamlessly to wifi networks that have adopted the tech, without the need to input passwords or other credentials. In fact, OpenRoaming has already been trialled at sites including the London Stadium and Canary Wharf.  

Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, says: ‘There’s a really exciting opportunity to make existing wifi 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.’

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‘Knowledge under attack’ concludes British Library 


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