Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Going Underground...signal strength
Sunday 20 October, 2013, 13:49 - Radio Randomness
Posted by Administrator
In major cities around the World it is now unusual to find yourself in a place without a WiFi connection or two going for free. Coffee shops, bars, department stores and many other places now offer free WiFi to their customers. Normally all that is required is to enter an e-mail address and accept a set of terms and conditions and you are surfing gratis. For anyone roaming and facing extortionate fees for their data connection, these WiFi connections can be a godsend.

But there are still some places around the world, even in major cities, where WiFi connections are few and far between and top of the list are the various underground metro systems. To make matters worse, many metros are not only WiFi free zones but are lacking mobile phone coverage too. Thankfully this situation is becoming less frequent as operators (whether transport or mobile) decide to provide the infrastructure necessary to enable mobile coverage underground. Covering underground tunnels and stations is not difficult, but it can be expensive. It requires the use of special antennas and in many cases the laying of leaky feeder - a coax cable specially designed to 'leak' signals along its length thereby acting as a long antenna.

The London underground has long been an area devoid of any kind of broadband internet connectivity, but for the 2012 Olympic Games many stations (not the tunnels connecting them) were fitted with free WiFi by internet service provider Virgin Media. Since the games, the WiFi has no longer been free (except for existing Virgin Media customers) but coverage is slowly being extended.

If you want to know which stations have coverage, you could visit Virgin Media's station guide, or alternatively 'there's an app for that'... The Station Masterstation master app app (unfortunately only for the iPhone at the moment) will let you know exactly which stations have WiFi connectivity and is updated regularly with information from people using the underground network and so often it shows stations that have got WiFi but which have not made it to the official station guide yet. As if to prove a point, at the moment Station Master is showing 123 stations with a WiFi service whereas the Virgin Media web-page only shows 120!

london underground wifi map

Not only does it show you where there's WiFi on the London underground but it also has 3D plans of nearly all of the central London stations (so you know which stairwell is quickest and easiest for getting from one line to another) and also will tell you exactly which door to stand at to get on the train so that you are in the right place to get to that stairwell or walkway when you get off the other end. For anyone who uses the London tube to get around, the app is a must have (even at GBP1.99). Of course you'll have to have a WiFi or mobile connection first to be able to download it in the first place!
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