Wi-fi London 'will complement' ISP business, not steal it

Internet providers claim city-wide wireless service will not replace traditional home and office connections
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London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans to turn the capital into a ‘wi-fi city’ by 2012 are no threat to internet service providers’ business, industry experts have said.

Mayor Johnson committed to the plans at the Google Zeitgeist search trends conference in Watford last month. “Every lamppost, every bus stop will one day very soon, before the 2012 Olympics, be wi-fi enabled,” he told the gathering of Google executives and business leaders.

Darren Farnden, head of marketing at Entanet, told PCR that while some users might find a public wi-fi connection sufficient for their needs, most would not. “Businesses are increasingly using their internet connectivity to publish or share data and/or applications between employees. The bandwidth demands generated would likely render a public wi-fi service inappropriate,” he said. “Residential consumers, meanwhile, would likely be concerned about the inability to effectively use streaming services such as video and music on demand, as well as internet TV.”

DSL Plus’ managing director Mark Rushton also foresaw drawbacks to the scheme. “The key consideration here is that it will be part of consumers’ online take-up and a supplementary service rather than a replacement for traditional internet delivery,” he said. “There will have to be some level of usage restriction and this will be coupled with the lack of any real service level agreement, static IP addressing and technical specifications that you see from modern internet connectivity packages.”

BT, meanwhile, stressed that the service would complement its operations. “BT welcomes plans to make London a wi-fi city by 2012. We believe this will give people the opportunity to take the internet experience they have at home with them on the move. We believe that public wi-fi access is complementary and gives people the opportunity to be connected wherever they are,” a spokesperson said.

So far 22 boroughs have signed up to the scheme. The Cloud, which currently supplies the City of London’s borough-wide wireless network, was reportedly lined up to run the Wi-fi London scheme, however, a spokesman told PCR the firm had not discussed this with the Mayor’s office.

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