Londoners live in a wasteland for Wi-Fi hotspots, but Nokia is changing all that by kicking off a large-scale trial of free Wi-Fi in the U.K. capital this week, with plans for a wider roll-out in early 2012.
The two-month trial, in partnership with Wi-Fi provider Spectrum Interactive, will operate in 12 key areas in central London, focusing on Oxford Street -- one of the capital's busiest shopping destinations -- and other popular locations such as Knightsbridge, Sloane Square, Victoria and Westminster.
The trial is intended to help Nokia figure out usage patterns and consumer demand before the big roll-out next year.
The free Wi-Fi is being positioned as part of Nokia's "Amazing Everyday" marketing push, which will include the launch of the long-awaited Lumia Windows Phone in the U.K. on Nov. 16 with a TV ad, part of a global $130 million campaign created by London agency Inferno. The spot features quick cuts of the countless small adventures hidden in ordinary daily activities, ending with the tagline "Experience the amazing everyday. New Nokia Lumia."
Unlike other European capitals such as Paris, where free Wi-Fi is offered in many cafes and restaurants, London currently has very few Wi-Fi hotspots. In the U.K., Starbucks offers free Wi-Fi in partnership with British Telecom, but users have to go through a rigorous sign-up procedure to access the service.
In London's financial district, The Cloud provides free Wi-Fi, but with the Olympics coming to London in 2012, more Wi-Fi services will be required across the sprawling city to help visitors find their way around. There are ongoing negotiations to offer Wi-Fi in London subway stations so that passengers can browse the web underground.
John Nichols, Nokia's U.K. marketing director, said in a statement, "Nokia believes you can upgrade everyday moments to make them amazing. Providing free Wi-Fi access to London commuters and visitors does just that . On-the-go internet access has become an indispensable part of modern life. We all depend on mobile to share our everyday experiences and enhance our lives."
Nokia's free Wi-Fi comes with very few strings attached. Users don't have to register to use the service; they just log on to the network, accept the terms and conditions and begin browsing. The Wi-Fi network will support high-speed access speed via equipment installed in street -side phone boxes already owned by Spectrum Interactive. Consumers will be able to pick up free Wi-Fi from a radius of 50 to 100 meters from each hotspot.
Simon Alberga, executive chairman at Spectrum Interactive, said, "Wi-Fi coverage currently fills a much-needed niche between 3G mobile internet and home broadband. Tablets and mobile phones are capable of incredibly high-end browsing experiences now, but Wi-Fi access is often a requirement to support the tasks many of us want to be able to do on the move, such as uploading multimedia to Facebook or watching YouTube. It's great to be able to implement a service that so many people will quickly come to regard as indispensable."