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Friday, 19 October 2012

Do we use the Internet in the London Underground stations?

Tuesday I read an article in which Virgin Media announced that the wi-fi network for the London underground will stay free until 2013. Originally, the idea was to give all travelers free access to the Internet only during the 2012 Olympics. Should we be happy about this extension? I mean, do we even use the internet underground? I wanted to check it out...


The Facebook poll

I decided to do a little research amongst my friends. I asked a bunch of friends with smartphones about their Internet experiences while commuting in London. Although the service is for free, half of them never used the Internet in a tube station. They never took the time to register. One commented he didn’t like the service: "giving people the chance to go online in the tube will turn them into zombies. Everybody would only have an eye for their mobile phones and not for other travelers."

A few of my friends have used the Internet only rarely because waiting times are considered to be too short to really browse the Web. We have to keep in mind that there is no coverage in the tube itself or in the tunnel. Internet access is only available inside the stations. It basically means we can go online in the ticket hall, escalators and on platforms. Only one of my friends, Loretta is different: She uses the service often. She loves the Internet so much that she would even pay money for Internet access in the tubes themselves if that were ever be made possible.

The most important reason amongst my friends for not using the service is the fact that the Internet only works in certain stations. At the moment, Virgin covers 72 underground stations but they want to extend it to around 120 stations in the coming years. Have a look at the current Wi-Fi availability on the Underground. The stations coloured in green are the stations with coverage and the red ones will get Internet coverage in the future.

The numbers

In total, people make 1,107 million journeys a year on the London Underground. If we divide this number by the days the underground is open, we can approximate that roughly 3.04 million journeys are made on the tube in a day. These are millions of opportunities people have to access the Internet on the Underground on a daily basis. Since Virgin started providing the Wi-Fi service, only 660,000 people joined their service, even though signing up is easy. It's a matter of simply registering with an email address!

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