Not too long ago, a number of cities in the U.S. were experimenting with offering free WiFi to its citizens. Most of these projects were launched just as the recession was about to hit and quite a few of them were quickly abandoned as the money well dried up. While we haven't heard much about new city-wide projects in the U.S. since then, London is about to get what its backers call "Europe's biggest WiFi zone."
This network will cover central London and will be provided by mobile carrier O2. Timed to coincide with the 2012 Olympics in the city and the Diamond Jubilee, O2 plans to cover "Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea."
Installation of the hardware has already started and the roll-out should be complete by March.
Olympic Class WiFi?
It'll be interesting to see if this network will be able to handle the traffic generated by millions of visitors when the 2012 Olympics start. Given that many of them will try to offload their data connections to WiFi instead of paying for roaming costs (and maybe even attempt to make the odd Skype call now and then), it's hard to imagine that the network will be able to hold up.
If my experience attending large events is anything to go by, it'll break, and it'll break bad. Getting good Wi-Fi for an event with 10,000 people is difficult enough. Trying to do that with millions of people must be a logistical nightmare.