Wi-Fi on the London Underground

Posted: March 28, 2011 by nwsix in News
Tags: , , , ,

by Daniel Masoliver

Photo: _dChris on Flickr

Following a successful trial at Charing Cross station, Transport for London (TfL) today announced plans to roll out Wi-Fi across 120 stations on the London Underground by the time the Olympics come around in 2012.

The technology has existed for some time to have both Wi-Fi and even full mobile coverage on the Tube. But public feeling has, for the most part, been that the hellishness of rush hour travel would be made even worse by ringing mobiles and chattering passengers.

Initially, it will be only the stations themselves that have Wi-Fi signals, not the trains. However, this is still an exciting development for communication – and yes, journalism – in London.

From a practical, albeit a rather boring point of view, people will be able to tweet live updates from underground platforms. So if there are delays caused by ‘a passenger emergency’, then you’ll be able to find out about it immediately from someone live-tweeting, as opposed to half an hour later when TfL officials finally get the message out.

But from a journalistic point of view too, there will be a whole host of new reporting possibilities. Imagine if we’d had Wi-Fi on underground platforms during the 7/7 bombings; audio, video, photos, tweets and all the rest of it could have been published online within seconds of the explosions. Professional and citizen journalists alike could have reported on the rescue operations as they happened, all from their mobile phones.

If such an atrocity should occur again in future, then the media will be better equipped to cover it. It is these very lines of thought, however, that has made many passengers weary of the introduction of a mobile network on the Underground.

A survey by technology website V3.co.uk has indicated that 41 per cent of people think that the tube is noisy enough as it is. And a further 20 per cent thought that the introduction of mobile phones on the Tube could actually heighten the terrorist threat (as mobile devices have been used in the past to detonate explosives).

But the day-to-day practical benefits of having Wi-Fi on the Underground, and the communications and media potential of the plan, remain an exciting prospect.

To read more about the plans, click here.


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