(Image: Flickr user Alberto Bissacco.)
If you live in, work in or travel to London then you might have been enjoying free wireless internet in Tube stations for the last few months.
Virgin Media has installed wireless access to nearly 100 stations. But from the start of February, it'll stop being free.
The cost of Wi-Fi underground
But if you're not with any of those companies then you're going to have to fork out. You can buy access for different periods of time:
- One month: £15
- One week: £5
- One day: £2
There's a special offer on at the moment that gets you three months for the price of one, but even with that in place to tempt people, it's hard to see customers flocking to use the service.
You don't linger on the Tube
Tube stations are places you pass through. You don't linger to use the internet access and other facilities. You want to get on your train and to your destination as quickly as possible.
Say I use the Tube twice a day to commute to the office. Now, let's be generous, and say I spend ten minutes in stations in the morning, and ten minutes in the evening. Discounting weekends, that's roughly 400 minutes a month where I might be in a position to use the Wi-Fi.
At £15 a month, that works out to about 3.75p per minute of wireless internet. Is that really worth it, to check Twitter and your email? I don't think so - especially when you can almost certainly get mobile internet the moment you emerge from a station.
Prepare for your journey
If you've become addicted to the free internet while it's been available, don't worry. It's easy enough to download emails and the latest Tweets before you head underground. Any emails you write on the Tube will be sent as soon as you emerge onto the streets.
You can even use a service like Pocket to cue up news articles or websites to read on your journey.
The appeal of free underground internet access is clear. But as soon as there's a cost involved, it's not worth the hassle and expense.
Of course, Virgin Media probably doesn't expect the service to attract many paying users. It's more interested in providing mobile and broadband customers with a perk - and giving potential customers a reason to switch to these services.