A firm called MeshHopper has introduced a free metropolitan WiFi network in London. Public users and businesses along a 22km stretch of the river Thames will be able to use the service if they agree to watch a 15-30 seconds commercial every 15 minutes:
MeshHopper is the company behind the paid-for Thames Online Wi-Fi network, which went fully commercial last year and which covers the same stretch of the river, from Millbank in central London to Greenwich in south-east London.
The free network, which has been branded as "online-4-free.com", gives users free access if they agree to view a 15 to 30 second advert every 15 minutes. If users don't want to view the adverts, they are charged one of a range of tariffs, including £2.95 per hour or £9.95 a month.
The free service operates with modest download speeds of 256Kbps. The paid-for services operate at a faster 500Kbps.
Free-hotspot.com has set up 1,500 smaller networks in buildings and open spaces around Europe, but the Thames service is by far its biggest network. "This really marks the arrival of free Wi-Fi in Greater London," said Dan Toomey, chief executive of free-hotspot.com. "Millions of Londoners, as well as commuters, visitors and tourists, can now expect to find free Wi-Fi as they work or play along the Thames."