Wi-Fi now available in London tube stations
King's Cross has been the first station to see the service go live with access free for travels till the end of the Olympics. It is estimated that it will continue to be free after the Olympics for Virgin Media customers. As 802.11u or Passpoint has just become a final standard am sure that this method of authentication 'may' be used after the Olympics. For now am afraid it just a simple series of a portal page!
The WiFi service will only work at station platforms for now and not while trains are travelling through the tunnels, which may slightly limit the uptake of users, as most users tend to only be on stations for a few minutes.
As I am working in London at the moment I thought that I would give this free service a try and see what the "End User" experience was like..
I checked out one of the stations and found three access points on the station which provided plenty of coverage with redundancy, if you take a look at the picture below you can see that they are using either an 1260 or 3502e.
My device of choice was my HTC desire XL 1.5Ghz with 2.4Ghz 802.11 and Android version 4.0.3
Virgin's SSID is for the underground is "Virgin Media WiFi". Apon connecting to it i received an IP address in about 5 seconds which i thought was quick compared to BT's Openzone.
Below is the series of portal pages that Virgin makes you progress through to obtain their service..
First landing page simply makes you click on the "Activate" button..
Second page you have to enter you email address, accept their terms and conditions and decide if you want them to spam you with special offers ;-)
Third page welcomes you to the Virgin Media service
Fourth page is a redirected page to some advertisements..
Once connected I thought that I would try and few through put tests. I tried three speedtest.net tests and averaged 30Mbps down and 10Mbps up. Not bad for a free service.
My last test was to use the service whilst I was on the tube. I stayed connected while I moved onto the train and downloaded my twitter feed. The train moved off and by the time I had read my feed we had pulled into the next station. My phone then automatically reconnected in the new station and downloaded more content! Whist this service will not work for streaming content between stations it is very usable for downloading emails, news and your feeds.
Due to the London underground stations being so close together you don't really notice that you disconnect and reconnect, unless you are streaming something of course.
All in all, my experience was very good, I didn't expect it to be so painless, having used other public WiFi services before I did not hold much hope for a seamless service, but was pleasantly surprised.
lets just see what it is like when thousands of people descend on London for the Olympics ;-)
Well done Virgin, now lets see you roll this service out to all of the other stations..