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120 Underground Wi-Fi hotspots will erupt in 2012

Spewing LOLcats all over 19th century caverns ...

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Transport for London is tendering for bidders to open Wi-Fi hotspots at underground stations, and possibly even at bus stations and stops.

The decision follows a trial with BT OpenZone at Charing Cross tube station in central London.

Transport for London said the tender was for up to 120 tube stations, out of a total of 260.

The contract will be awarded to a provider or reseller by the end of 2011 with the aim of getting some stations at least online by the Olympics.

The first stage will be to open London Underground's own Wi-Fi networks at 16 stations for customers to use.

Research from the Charing Cross pilot found over half those questioned felt that access to Wi-Fi would make their experience of using the Tube better. We're assuming the other half wanted to know where their bloody train was.

TfL will charge providers for access; it will be up to them to collect payment from users.

Access will not explicitly be for voice – we asked about VoIP but didn't get a clear answer. And access is to the platform edge only, not onboard trains.

Given the state of most of the underground network, voice calls would be impossible anyway. The 19th century network is going through another of its endless upgrades – even TfL's press emails come with a boilerplate warning of disruptions and delays.

The tender will be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union later this month and in the national press next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the pilot programme at Charing Cross continues until later this year.

Discussions with mobile phone companies to provide access "on the deep Tube network" are continuing.

You can find out more about the Tube upgrade programme here, or there's more on internet access at stations here. ®

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