FINNISH PHONE MAKER Nokia has launched a trial that provides free WiFi access from 26 locations in London, as the firm aims to create a buzz around the launch of its Lumia 800 Windows Phone.
Nokia has launched the trial in conjunction with WiFi provider Spectrum Interactive and it will finish at the end of December. Access points will be available in key areas around the capital including Oxford Street, Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, South Kensington, Marylebone, Mayfair and Victoria.
There is no requirement to register for the service in advance or enter a username or password when accessing it. Users need to turn on the WiFi option on their device, search for the 'Free Nokia Wi-Fi' SSID and accept the terms and conditions to get started.
Users will have unlimited access to the internet, but download speeds will be initially restricted to 1MB/s per user for downloads and 500KB/s for uploads. Nokia confirmed that no personal information will be collected, only information about which devices are being used to access the internet, how long the service is used and the type of web sites being accessed.
Simon Alberga, executive chairman of Spectrum Interactive said that the trial is the first step towards bringing free WiFi to the streets of London and that users' behaviour will be evaluated to improve the service.
"We see Wi-Fi evolving into a free service in areas such as restaurants and it is because people are coming in for a relatively short period of time. In these cases, Wi-Fi is provided as a free service and it is being funded by a partner, sponsor or an advertising business model," he said at the launch of the trial in Soho today.
"We're using the trial to evaluate demand and if everyone wants to stream video then we can easily upgrade the bandwidth. We can vary speeds at different locations, to provide users with the bandwidth that they need."
On the subject of security, Alberga admitted that there are no measures in place to prevent hackers from setting up a false Nokia WiFi hotspot to glean information from unsuspecting users.
"[However], they will have to go to a lot of trouble to mimic the landing page, the way the network works," he added.
Nokia and Spectrum declined to comment on the cost of the trial, but did confirm that different business models were being analysed and that advertising will be used to help fund the service.
Currently WiFi hotspots are offered by providers such as BT. The telecoms firm offers around 4,000 wireless access points via its Openzone network. Users generally have to pay to access this service, but some operators have made deals with BT to include a limited allowance in their contracts.
With the Nokia trial being free and device agnostic, it could prove to be very popular. Spectrum said it has enough WiFi access points to extend the service to cover an additional 1,000 sites across London if it is a success. µ
'Some of us like the misery'
That'll surely affect its credit score