As it battles to retain a hold on the mobile phone market Nokia has announced a deal to offer free wi-fi in London. Partnering with Spectrum Interactive, Nokia is to launch a two-month trial of a free wi-fi service in central London. If the trial proves successful, there are plans to extend the service in early 2012. With the Olympics and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2012, London is expecting record tourist numbers and with the majority of those expected to be part of the smartphone generation, WiFi will be a key asset in attracting customer loyalty.

Under the trial scheme Nokia has set up 26 wi-fi hotspots mostly concentrated around shopping areas in the West End of London and mainline rail stations. Users of the service will not need to register or sign in to the hotspots be located on public phone boxes owned and operated by Spectrum Interactive. To avoid abuse download speeds will be limited to a maximum of 1 megabit per user but more than enough for users to stay in touch via email etc.

Free wi-fi services are already widely available in London but usually within privately-owned buildings and frequently requiring payment for a service or product from the business hosting the WiFi signal. Often they also require sign-up to an account by a third-party operator, sometimes ‘free’ actually meaning purchase of a limited amount of data usage.

Other plans for free WiFi in the capital, including via the London Underground, in time for the London 2012 Olympics have been mooted but Nokia’s move is the first to go live.

Do you ever use public WiFi? If not, what puts you off?

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