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Page last updated at 13:49 GMT, Wednesday, 19 May 2010 14:49 UK
Can the whole of London go wi-fi?

Mayor Boris Johnson first told the BBC that he wanted London to become "a wi-fi city", where the internet was available anywhere, in September 2008.

You could get online across London with the new plans.
You could get online across London with the new plans.

"Let's do it, beginning in Stratford in this fantastic area of opportunity," he told BBC London 94.9, referring to the location of the main 2012 Olympic site.

During Google's Zeitgeist event in Hertfordshire, held on Tuesday, Boris Johnson once again pledged that the capital would become one huge wi-fi hotspot.

He told 400 business leaders: "Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the internet, was born in London, so we claim paternity of the internet.

"London is the home of technological innovation. We in City Hall are doing our best to keep up, and one of our most important projects is called wi-fi London."

The mayor explained how street furniture, such as lamp posts and bus stops, could be wi-fi enabled using existing cabling.

Wireless Square Mile

London already has large areas covered by wi-fi networks.

Wi-fi is 'wireless fidelity' or 'wireless network' - that allows you to connect to the internet without using wires
A hotspot is a physical location that offers internet access wirelessly
IEEE 802.11 is a set of standards for wireless communications
Wi-fi can be free or you can pay to go online by the hour, day or month
The City of London has 95% public Wi-fi
Swindon is the UK's first Wi-fi covered town
In 2005, Sunnyvale, California became the first city in the United States to offer city-wide free wi-fi

The City of London has 95% coverage allowing more than 350,000 people who work in and visit the area access to wireless broadband.

It was launched in April 2007 and was the largest European outdoor wi-fi network of its kind.

Steve Nicholson, Chief Executive Officer of The Cloud who provided the City of London with its wireless network told BBC London: "The key telecoms executives meet with Boris and the 2012 Olympic organisers once a quarter to chew over how the industry can respond to the anticipated surge in mobile Internet as the Olympics come to town.

"It's great for Londoners to have broad industry agreement that the only credible means to cater for high performance mobile broadband is over wi-fi."

"I suspect Boris is articulating his thoughts around how we can conceptually deliver a wi-fi service across all the key London boroughs to create a wi-fi city.

"The cloud has multiple networks similar to what Boris describes, in the Nordics and of course in the City of London, which is mounted on street furniture, so it is logical to assume a similar network across London."

The key is to provide seamless indoor and outdoor coverage so as people wander the streets watching the games, catching a drink, having a sandwich, everything works smoothly
Steve Nicholson, Chief Executive Officer, The Cloud

Steve Nicholson continued: "As ever with such public ambitions it will come down to costs and I suspect a worry is the probability of budget cuts as the new government curbs public expenditure. The clock's ticking and hopefully our current financial woes will not stop us showcasing UK PLC at the Olympics."

Canary Wharf has also been enabled with wireless broadband since 2005.

Do we need it?

Some would say that London is already covered by wi-fi. You can walk along most high streets and you will find hotspots in coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, sandwich bars, pubs and several public places.

However, it will be the open spaces and streets of London without local wi-fi or fixed broadband that would benefit.

Modern technology has also driven a need for more public hotspots. Wireless enabled devices include laptops, PDAs, media players and smart phones.

The huge rise in social networking will allow users constant communications. Businesses will also benefit from the knowledge of broadband available anywhere in London.

'Wi-Fi London' could be in place by 2012.
'Wi-Fi London' could be in place by 2012.

Wi-fi is also much faster than mobile phone data networks and traditional dial-up connections.

At the moment if you were to travel around the capital with a wireless device you would have to connect and re-connect many times to several different hotspots and possibly pay for more than one service.

There is also no guarantee that where you are has wi-fi.

British web users are spending 65% more time online than three years ago, according to a recent survey of net habits.

At the moment there are no detailed plans on the type of security that will be used for 'wi-fi London'.

However, a recent investigation by Watchdog revealed that some users of wi-fi hotspots are susceptible to attack by hackers - leaving tens of thousands of users at risk of fraud.

When using wi-fi your data (e-mails, internet addresses, keystrokes) is being transmitted across the airwaves and encrypted for security. It is possible malicious hackers can intercept this data unless you set up a security such as a remote access virtual private network (VPN).

This is something advised by major providers of wi-fi but not often set up by the user.

How much will it cost?

Price plans have not been detailed yet but at the moment you can pay anything from £5 per hour to £9.99 per day from a range of suppliers.

Free wi-fi access within pubs, coffee shops and other public places is becoming more common.

Boroughs on board

Twenty-two London boroughs have signed up to the plan.

Mayor Boris Johnson first told BBC London 94.9 about Wi-Fi plans in 2008.
Mayor Boris Johnson first told BBC London 94.9 about Wi-Fi plans in 2008.

The project is expected to work by installing thousands of 'hotspots' (wi-fi zones) into street lights and bus stops.

Wi-fi transmitters could use the existing electrical supply and wiring found within many public street items.

In 2009 Swindon Borough Council switched on the first phase of its plans to install a wi-fi wireless mesh covering the whole of the Borough of Swindon - the first town in the UK to provide free internet access for all its residents.

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15 May 10 |  Technology
Wi-fi health fears are 'unproven'
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