Municipal WiFi is nothing new, Swindon tried to offer blanket coverage, but this ran into problems with some £400,000 lost by the council. Nokia is the latest entrant in the provision of free WiFi in the UK.
The trial is starting with just 26 hotspots in Central London i.e. Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, South Kensington, Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Lancaster Gate, Bayswater, Westminster, Sloane Square, Victoria and Marylebone. The service is actually based around WiFi from telephone boxes owned by Spectrum Interactive, and while the service is provided by Nokia any WiFi enabled device should be able to connect.
A common issue with free WiFi is that some people will make extensive use of it and thus squeeze the bandwidth for others. To help alleviate this the 20 Mbps connection at each hotspot will be limited to 1 Mbps downstream and 0.5 Mbps upstream for each user.
According the news item on Computer Active, users of Nokia Maps should be able to find the hotspots using the map software. The map shows the concentration around Oxford Street, which as anyone who has walked down it will know, it is not the ideal spot to stop and do some web browsing.
The trial, if successful, could see further roll-out across London in early 2012, which with the influx of tourists expected for the Olympics next year will be critical, and may help to off load some data from what are likely to be crowded 3G networks.