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London gets free Wi-Fi zone in bid to become 'world's most tech-friendly city'

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O2 has launched a free Wi-Fi network across a large portion of London's West End, with plans to keep it in place following the end of the Olympic Games.

O2 West End Wi-Fi network
O2 West End Wi-Fi network

With two days to go until London's Olympic opening ceremony, British carrier O2 has launched a free Wi-Fi network across a large portion of the city's West End. Covering the shopping areas of Oxford Street and Regent Street, the theatre district around Leicester Square, and the museums on Exhibition Road, the network will remain in place following the conclusion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in September.

A joint venture between the Telefónica-owned carrier and two boroughs — Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea — the free service is funded by advertising. After a one-time signup process, users are presented with an O2 homepage, initially featuring content from department store House of Fraser. According to a press release, advertising has the potential to update "depending on the users' location," offering targeted promotion for nearby shops and attractions.

Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster Council, tells the BBC that the scheme is part of a "long term project to help make London one of the most technology-friendly cities in the world." Virgin Media began rolling out a similar service to select London Undergound stations in May, and plans to charge for access following the Olympic tourist-surge. It's not clear exactly how long O2's free Wi-Fi will last, but a spokesperson tells us that it will remain "well beyond the end of the Olympic Games."