EE customers to get free Wi-Fi on London tubes from 2013, deal struck with Virgin Media?
EE has announced that it will be offering its customers free Wi-Fi on the London Underground system free of charge, starting early next year.
Posting the news on its Twitter feed - but without elaboration - EE says: "Travel on the tube? From early 2013, EE customers will be able to get WiFi access on the London Underground at no extra cost. Details soon."
There's little else, but Pocket-lint expects the further details will include a deal with the Tube's chosen broadband operator Virgin Media.
Currently, Virgin Media uses the T-Mobile network for its Virgin Mobile services, and T-Mobile, of course, is one of the umbrella companies within the EE infrastructure. Additionally, Virgin Media runs (currently free, but soon to be paid for) Wi-Fi in 72 of London's underground stations, so has a valuable bargaining chip in its grasp.
So does EE, of course. Pocket-lint spoke to Virgin Media in September about possibilities for the TV, mobile and broadband service provider to buy a 4G package from EE. A spokesman explained to us at that time that talks between the two companies were "always taking place".
"We already work with EE as they are our network partner for our mobile service, hence we are always in talks with them," we were told.
It is therefore reasonable to suggest that a deal has been struck between the two, with free tube Wi-Fi going one way, and 4G network access the other.
We have contacted both Virgin Media and EE for further comment and will update when we receive reply.
UPDATE We've just heard from a reliable source that the deal with Virgin Media to bring free Wi-Fi to mobile phone customers is not an EE exclusive. Vodafone is also understood to be in the process of firming up free Tube Wi-Fi for its customers too.
UPDATE 2 Virgin Media has responded to Pocket-lint and cannot comment any further today. Perhaps EE went public with its Twitter posting earlier than others would have liked?
UPDATE 3 The hippos were right! It seems that EE has withdrawn its Tube Wi-Fi tweet. Talks, we understand, are ongoing and it's unlikely that the announcement was approved by any other party or parties.
UPDATE 4 Crikey, update 4 already... EE has now responded with a statement. "We’re always looking at ways to improve the service we offer our customers. However, we have nothing to announce at this time," it says. This morning's tweet has indeed been withdrawn.
FINAL UPDATE Virgin Media, EE and Vodafone have now put out a joint confirmation that customers of all three services will be getting free access to the London Tube Wi-Fi network in early 2013. You can read more about in our final news story: Virgin Media confirms Vodafone and EE London tube Wi-Fi deal, free for all customers