Residents and visitors to certain parts of London could soon be able to connect to WiFi as they wander the streets, after communications provider Arqiva won the rights to provide outdoor connectivity in Camden, Wandsworth, Hounslow, Islington and Hammersmith & Fulham.
The WiFi service will be deployed over the next 12 months, and will provide users with unlimited, free access to the council’s online services, as well as providing the first 30 minutes of use per day for free. Arqiva said that 1.1 million people are set to benefit from the fast connectivity.
The project will see the combined deployment of WiFi and 3G/4G small cells to provide indoor and outdoor coverage. These cells will be installed across Arquiva's portfolio of phone boxes, rooftops and other buildings, as well as on street infrastructure made available by the five boroughs.
“This is a fantastic deal for taxpayers and the council. We know that many of our residents still do not have online access, so this deal will open up a new digital world to them. This will make it easier than ever for our residents to get online,” said H&F Council deputy leader Greg Smith.
“It will also make it easier for people to access council services online wherever they are and they will help us keep reducing council tax bills.”
Councillor Theo Blackwell, Camden Cabinet member for Finance added: “Our large number of visitors and tourists will benefit from being able to access online information about events nearby and find information to visit local shops, bars and restaurants.”
The news follows Arqiva's acquisition of Wi-Fi operator Spectrum Interactive for £23.4 million last year. The deal saw Arqiva become the fourth largest Wi-Fi hotspot provider in the UK, with around 15,500 access points.
Arqiva said at the time that it had no intention of running a branded public Wi-Fi network, like The Cloud or BT Openzone (now known simply as “BT Wi-Fi”). Instead, it said it would continue to offer white label services to customers such as Premier Inn and Travelodge.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson has previously pledged to make London the most Wi-Fi accessible city in the world. Johnson believes that the technology industry can help boost the economy, with the creation of businesses, jobs and apprenticeships.