A single WiFi operator could provide services across London’s Tube and rail networks from 2016, according to papers prepared for this month’s Transport for London board meeting.
Last year London Underground signed an exclusive multi-year contract with Virgin Media which allows the company to provide free WiFi access to their own customers while charging rival mobile operators to offer the service to their users.
Passengers whose operators do not enter wholesale agreements with Virgin media must pay the company if they wish to access the WiFi service.
At the time of the deal London Assembly members expressed concern that TfL was using public infrastructure to help a private operator gain commercial advantage over its rivals.
A separate WiFi service powered by The Cloud has since launched on the London Overground, providing 60 minutes of free internet access each day at each of the service’s 57 stations.
Unlike the Virgin Media deal, the Overground’s agreement with The Cloud was signed by London Overground Rail Operations Limited, which delivers London Overground services on behalf of TfL.
This means revenue raised under the deal goes by LOROL, not TfL.
However the capital’s transport authority is looking at ways to “align the WiFi offering across LU and London Rail” when LOROL’s contract to run Overground services ends in 2016.
Such a move could prove lucrative for TfL as the successful bidder would have exclusive access to TfL’s entire daily rail and Tube passenger count.
However appointing a single company as the sole internet gatekeeper is also likely to re-open concerns about competition and fair access.