Sources: TfL considering Wi-Fi bundles on Oyster travel cards

Transport for London (TfL) and Virgin Media Business are considering creating pre-paid travel cards that include access to Wi-Fi in 80 of the capital’s tube stations.

It was revealed in March that Virgin Media Business had been selected to implement Wi-Fi in London underground stations ahead of the Olympic Games this summer.

The service will be available throughout the stations and on the platforms. Users will only lose connectivity when going through the tunnels, but will automatically reconnect as the tube pulls into the platform.

Throughout the Games the service will be made available for free to commuters, but will be chargeable after the ceremonies finish. It was originally intended that this would be made available as a pay-as-you-go service.

However, Computerworld UK has learned from a senior executive who is directly involved with the implementation that there are concerns in both camps about the commercial viability of the pay-as-you-go model.

He said that consumers aren’t used to paying for internet as and when they need it, they typically pay for packages.

As a result, TfL and Virgin Media are looking into offering travel cards, which would be made available via the Oyster card top-up system, that include Wi-Fi as part of the cost.

For example, instead of paying £29.20 for a 7-day zone 1 and 2 travel card, commuters would have the choice to pay an extra set amount on top of the £29.20 to include Wi-Fi.

The details of when this service might be made available were not confirmed.

The Wi-Fi service will itself connect to the Virgin Media’s fibre backhaul and will use the latest 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, meaning that passengers can expect to experience speeds comparable to those on a 4G network.

A TfL spokesperson told Computerworld UKthat although Virign Media is assessing a range of alternative commercial models, TfL has no plans to include Wi-Fi bundles as part of travelcards.

“After the summer, a free online portal with Live Tube service updates including TfL’s journey planner, news and entertainment will continue to be available to all Tube passengers," said Gareth Powell, Director of Strategy and Service Development, TfL.

“A Pay-As-You-Go service will give visitors and commuters full access to WiFi on an ongoing basis and Virgin Media is exploring a range of other commercial models to ensure every user's needs are met. There are no plans to add WiFi minutes to Oyster cards.”

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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