How To Get Internet And Wi-Fi In London

How To Get Internet And Wi-Fi In London

We are living in a digital age and constantly in need of staying connected via the internet. Regardless of where we are, we all have one thing in common, we all want a good Internet connection. If you don’t want to spend time looking for constant, uninterrupted Internet and WI-FI in London, this article is just for you!

How to Get Internet and WI-FI in London? There are several options available to people who want a good internet and WI-FI connection in London. These options include but are not limited to buying a local sim card with a data plan, searching for public Wi-Fi or using hotel Wi-Fi, getting a Travel Wi-Fi Hotspot, and lastly roaming your sim.

For more on information on what your internet and Wi-Fi options in London are, continue below.

Staying Connected in London: Internet & WI-FI Options

Staying connected with your loved ones and the world at large is important. Depending on your plan and budget, below are some internet and WI-FI options to help you stay connected when in London.

Buying a SIM Card

A collection of UK Sim Cards.
The local sim cards will have etched cut-outs for three sizes so you will have no issues finding a provider that fits with your phone.

One of the options available to you is to buy a local sim card. A local Sim card will give you the advantage of texting and making calls. You can also access the internet by buying a local data plan. Getting a sim card can be the best options if you don’t plan on needing big amounts of data.

However, you should know that your device will need to be unlocked before you can use data on the phone. If you are not sure whether your device is unlocked or not, you can check with the place you got the phone from.

With a local sim card, you should be able to access the internet with the highest speed possible. In addition, you will also be able to use a phone as a hot spot to connect your other gadgets that might require internet access.

Read this before purchasing a SIM card: Do all Phones Work with UK Sim Cards? What to Know Before Visiting.

Advantages of buying a local SIM card

  • Cost-effective when compared to hefty roaming charges
  • The added advantage of calling and texting
  • Good for people planning for an extended visit or stay in London
  • Offers the fastest local speed possible

 Disadvantages of buying a local SIM card

  • You will have to first find, buy, and then insert the sim card before you can be connected. This may prove stressful, especially if you are not familiar with your surroundings.
  • Though a local sim card is cost-effective to the owner, loved ones trying to call or text you may incur heavy charges.
  • You may have to wait till you can get a sim card before you can contact your loved ones.
Vodaphone vending machine at Heathrow Airport in the baggage reclaim area.
Vodaphone vending machine at Heathrow Airport in the baggage reclaim area.

Get an International or Europe Only Sim Card

The only difference between the two is that a Europe only sim card is limited to Europe and cheaper than an international sim card. With an international sim card, you don’t need to always buy a new sim when you are visiting another country. Hence, it will be a good option for people who are always travelling- it is simple and very convenient.

Advantages of Getting an International or Europe only Sim Card

  •  Having one sim card to use for almost every country is really a very convenient way of traveling.
  • Reduces the cost of your loved ones calling or texting you. Compared to a local sim or roaming fees, this is certainly the best to keep in touch with your loved ones.
  • International data plans work with locked phones. You don’t need to worry whether your device is locked or unlocked.
  • The hassle of a language barrier is eliminated. You can manage and top your accounts in your language.
  • Gives you the advantage of contacting your loved ones immediately after touching down.
  • Your loved ones can reach you anywhere you are, since it is the same sim.

Disadvantages of International or Europe only Sim Card.

  • Europe only sim cards are limited to only countries within the European Union.
  • An International Sim card and data plan might be very expensive in the long run. So, it won’t be advisable if you are on an extended stay or visit.
  • Some countries don’t make provisions for international sims. However, London has provisions for international sim cards.

Searching for Public WI-FI or Using Hotel WI-FI

WI-FI is one of the cheapest options available for internet users. What is more, you need to unlock your phone to use WI-FI or access the internet.

It’s possible to find free WI-FI hotspots in many places in London. In fact, you can access free WI-FI in places such as Starbucks, McDonald’s, Cafés, Underground (if you have a local sim), etc. though you may have to buy something if it is a restaurant in order to gain access.

However, the downside is that you would have to stay in one place to stay connected, instead of exploring the city. Using WI-FI can also be inconvenient, especially if you are travelling. You may not be able to search for directions if you get lost. More so, public WI-FI is not your best option if you want uninterrupted network connection.

Using your Mobile Data

It is also possible to use your mobile data to access the internet if you are not scared of the charges that it will attract. By using your mobile data, you will be attracting hefty charges unless you have international data coverage.

If you want to avoid this, there are better options to explore, such as WI-FI, Local Sim, etc. when accessing the internet in London.

Getting Travel Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

This will be a great choice if you are travelling in a group to London. Although it is also a good choice for a solo traveller. A travel WI-FI Hotspot provides you with your own 4G unlimited network. In London, this can be up to 5GB daily.

One of the obvious advantages of a Travel WI-FI Hotspot is that you can your share hotspot with others. You can connect up to 10 devices at once and still be able to access the internet at high speeds.  

This means you can connect your laptop and other gadgets to the WI-FI Hotspot if you are a solo traveller or share among the group if you are travelling in a group.

Advantages of Using a WI-FI Hotspot

  • Ability to connect up to 10 devices
  • Convenient and easy to carry while travelling
  • A good option for a group of travellers or a family
  • Can connect anywhere, once it is in range.

Disadvantages of using WI-FI hotspot

  • There is a risk of it getting lost or stolen
  • You will always have to carry the mobile WI-FI Hotspot around
  • You have to keep the mobile WI-FI Hotspot charged always
  • It can be inconvenient for a group once splitting occurs
  • Running costs might be expensive on the long run.

Get a Customized Roaming SIM

Roaming your ordinary or local sim may be too expensive and getting a local sim every time, your travel might be too stressful. Alternatively, you can get a customized roaming sim.

For instance, KnowRoaming offers a SIM sticker that involves you applying a sticker to your existing SIM card. This sticker basically turns your sim into a super dual SIM card that you can use when you travel without replacing your sim.

 There are various options and data packages depending on your choice and preference.

Internet Access Options

Internet service is widely available in London. Most time you will find them added to cable and satellites service. There are various types of connection, depending on what you want. Some of these include ADSL, Cable, etc. The speed and cost also vary from one provider to the other.

Some of the Internet Providers in London include:

Sky – offer speeds of up to 24 Mb, BT Broadband, TalkTalk, Virgin Media,  Orange, Vodafone, Calico UK Internet Service, Abel Internet, and Plusnet.

Installation

After deciding the type of connection, you want, you will need to contact your chosen service provider for installation. Usually, you won’t need to have the engineers over, though it might be necessary if you are just installing for the first time.

What Does Installation Involve?

Basically, installation involves setting up the modem or router and filter. After setting up, you will then configure the internet access on a computer, and after that, you are ready to access the internet.

Note: You will need some documents to successfully install your internet access.

Documents Required for Installation includes proof of identity (Valid full EU passport or Valid non- EU passport, Current and Valid UK Driving License), Utility bill or lease agreement, as the case may be.

What is WI-FI?

The term ‘WI-FI’ is used to describe the technology through which the internet is distributed wirelessly into our devices. The keyword here is ‘wirelessly,’ meaning it does not require a cable to work, and you can connect your device remotely once your device is in range. For Wi-Fi to work, you will need to buy broadband.

Note: Broadband is generally what brings the WI-FI to your home. Broadband is the technology responsible for connecting your personal internet to the global one. It specifically brings the internet to you with the help of wires, cables, and exchanges.

While broadband brings the internet to you specifically, you still need a wireless router before you can access and use the internet. Once you have your broadband deal, the next step is to plug your wireless router into your broadband connection.

The wireless router will dispense the WI-FI connection to a specific band range. As a result, you will be able to connect your devices anywhere within that range without needing cables and the like.

Wi-Fi Options in London

O2 WI-FI

O2 WI-FI offers free service. The most amazing part is that you don’t have to be an O2 customer to use O2 WI-FI. All you have to do to use it is sign up, and that is all!  

Places you can find O2 WI-FI in London include McDonald’s, Debenhams, Costa Coffee, House of Fraser, Café Rouge, etc. O2 WI-FI gives you quick access. It requires no password or username to connect.  To connect to O2’s Free WI-FI service, you can use an app on your Apple and Android device. For more info go to O2 Wi-Fi.

Starbucks UK

If you are looking for free WI-FI, then you can visit any Starbucks. Starbucks usually offers a two-hour free session. Though the WI-FI only lasts for two hours, this doesn’t mean you are limited to those two hours per day. You can have as many sessions as you want per day, all you need to be to reconnect after your 2 hours elapse. For more information on how to use this, visit Starbucks UK.

The Cloud

The Cloud is another free WI-FI service that you can use in London. The advantage of this option is that it serves thousand of hotspots in the UK. This means it is easier to find a place to connect as you go.

However, before you can use the Cloud, you will need to create a Cloud account. This is not difficult at all. All you need to do is to create a username and password, and then log in through your device’s browser when you get to a place that has a Cloud WI-FI hotspot. You can visit The Cloud for more information and help.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media is a Pay-for-Service Wi-Fi network in London. It provides full, speedy WI-FI internet access by connecting customers to Virgin Media Hotspots all across the city. This way you can connect to the internet from almost anywhere, even underground!

They also provide WI-FI access to home users via broadband and routers. There are different packages on offer, depending on your preference. Some of these include Virgin Media Hub, Virgin Media Broadband, Virgin Mobile Pay Monthly among others

Virgin Media service is not free. You will need to pay a certain amount to get broadband and a router set up. You also don’t need a phone line to set up and connect, which is an added advantage.

However, if you don’t want to totally switch to Virgin Media WI-FI Service permanently, you can always use their services by buying a WI-FI Pass for a temporary period- this could be for a day, week or a month, your choice! For more information, visit Virgin Media

BT WI-FI

British Telecom (BT WI-FI) is one of the fastest and most widely used WI-FI services in London and the UK generally. It offers a broadband service that is connected to most of the hotspots in public places. This means you can use this service when you are mobile or up and about.

Boingo

Boingo is unique in the sense that they are not just limited to London and the UK. They provide different international packages and data plans, which means you can also use it when you are in London. The Boingo Mobile service costs $7.95 USD per month for UNLIMITED Wi-Fi access worldwide at 600,000+ Wi-Fi hotspots –a good deal if you ask me.

You can download their Boingo Mobile Wi-Fi app to your device and sign-up before you leave on your trip.   For more info go to Boingo.

Pros and Cons of WI-FI Internet Access

Pros

  • Easy to find: You can find WI-FI hotspots almost everywhere in London, making a convenient choice for data users.
  • Convenient for heavy data users: If you are a heavy data user, using a mobile data plan or roaming your sim might get too expensive and cumbersome in the long run. With a speedy WI-FI such as Virgin Media, heavy data users can surf and download without hassles.
  • Able to Connect almost any device: Once your device is able to access the internet, then rest assured, you can use WI-FI for it, and what is more, you won’t need a cable or wire to connect to the internet!
  • Automatic connection: Once you put your WI-FI password into your device, connection henceforth will be automatic. No hassles, just a simple, quick connection.
  • You can connect from anywhere within range:  Your router distributes the WI-FI over a band range in your home. Once you plug in your router to your broadband, you can connect from anywhere once you are in range.
  • You can deploy your Wi-Fi internet access to your other devices by using a hot spot.

Cons

  • You may experience low speeds, especially if you are not using reliable broadband.
  • WI-FI is susceptible to interference, and this may affect speed and even workability.
  • The range of a typical WI-FI router is still very limited. Ideally, the range will encompass your entire home, but when you walk about the streets, you will need to continually jump from one WI-FI Hotspot to another.
  • Security risks: Security may be a problem, especially when using public WI-FI.

Who is Wi-Fi for?

The beauty of Wi-Fi is that it is for almost everyone, except maybe you don’t use or have smartphones and computers, a reality that is almost impossible in this age. Wi-Fi will be highly beneficial to the following group of people.

  • Household and families: A family, especially a large one, will need WI-FI for their numerous internet needs. Doing a data plan for each member of the family will not only be stressful but also expensive.
  • Rented apartments: As neighbours, you can share the same WI-FI connection. The costs can be shared between the neighbours. This could be a cheaper option compared to individual data plans.
  • Student Hostels or Apartments: Like rented apartments, student hostels could also share the same WI-FI and manage the cost for better internet access.
  • Heavy data users: Heavy data users such as gamers, tech nerds, and the likes will want a broadband WI-FI connection. It is relatively cheaper and more convenient.
  •  Practically anyone: Do you have a device? Do you need internet access? If Yes, then WI-FI can be for you. Though you may have a mobile data plan, the beauty of WI-FI is that you can connect from anywhere in your house.

How do I Setup WI-FI?

If you want Wi-Fi personally at home, you only need to follow a few simple steps below.

  • Choose a broadband deal – You’re going to need to choose a broadband company to supply your WI-FI.
  • Wait for router or engineer to arrive – Once ordered, one of two things will happen. Most broadband providers will send your broadband Wi-Fi router through the post, and then you just plug it in as directed.

However, some broadbands suppliers such as Virgin Media may require a visit from an engineer to set up the broadband.

  • After setting up the broadband, the next step is to plug the router and switch it on.  This isn’t difficult at all; you can just follow the manual instruction on how to do it. If you still encounter any problems, then maybe it is time to contact your service provider.
  • After plugging in the router, you are now connected to the WI-FI. To secure your connection, you will need to set a password or preferably change your password from what came with it to your chosen password. It is advisable to set a password that is strong, and at the same time, you can easily recollect.
  • All you need to do now is to connect devices and browse away. To connect your device, go to WI-FI settings on your device, click on your router, and enter your password. Voila! You are connected!

Places You Can Find Free WI-FI In London

Most hotels and B&B’s have Wi-Fi service for their guests. This means internet access in your accommodation is already sorted out. For your daily outing, however, finding internet access may not be as easy. To save you the stress, we have gathered some ideas on how you can stay connected using free WI-FI.

Note: Most of these options are free, except for a few exceptions.

  • Get Wi-Fi on Tours: If you are visiting London on vacation, one of the easiest ways to access the internet is to get Wi-Fi from the Tour company you signed up. Most tours guides offer some sort of data plans and can share their hotspot with you so that you could quickly use Wi-Fi. 
  • Sign up to O2 Wi-Fi:  As earlier mentioned, O2 WI-FI is one of the few free WI-FI that gives you quick internet access. You can download the O2 Wi-Fi App, so you can find the nearest hotspot to you, even when you are offline. The O2 App is available on both Apple and Android platforms.
  • Bus Tours are one of the easiest ways to gain access to free WI-FI in London. Most tour bus these days have free WI-FI for ticket holders, you can just try your luck!
  • Sign up to the Cloud: Places you can find Cloud WI-FI hotspot include Pizza Express, Wagamama, shopping centres among others.

All you need to do to gain access to cloud WI-FI is to create a Cloud account and then use username and password to login through one of their hotspots.

  • Apart from WI-FI service companies, most major, airport, train stations, restaurants, and shopping malls offer free WI-FI to their customers.
  • Starbuck offers free WI-FI, all you need to do is simply get a coffee and enjoy the two-hour session they provide freely. If you are not satisfied with your two hours session, you can reconnect once the two hours are over.
  •  You may able to access free WI-FI in some streets in London such as Oxford St, Trafalgar Sq., Piccadilly Circus, Islington’s Upper St. and the City of London. Though using in these streets is free of charge, nevertheless, you have to register before using
  • You might also get free Wi-Fi in McDonald’s, where free 24-hour period Wi-Fi are offered to customers. Though you will have to at least buy something.
  • If you are looking for temporary solutions, you can opt for buying Virgin Media’s WI-FI Pass.
  • Use internet cafés: old? Yes, but internet cafes still work, and you might be surprised at how cheap they are. So why limit yourself, when you can access the internet in the comfort of a Café?
  • Online-4-Free.com offers a Free WI-FI coverage that covers the banks of River and some surrounding streets. All the site wants in return is for you to watch a short advertisement every thirty minutes — a small price to pay considering.
  • Some public libraries, such as the British Library offers free internet access for members that are registered.

FREE WI-FI TIPS

  • Always take permission or ask before logging in to a WI-FI network in public spaces. You may be violating a law by logging in without permission.
  • There is always a security risk when using a public WI-FI, so make sure that there are good security measures in place before logging in. You also need to be careful of your passwords and login data when logging in a public space

More London Articles

If you are visiting London you may want to get a SIM card, here’s everything you need to know about phones working with UK SIM cards. If you run out of battery while exploring the city make sure you read where can you charge your phone in London.

Here are some more inspiration and frequently asked questions.

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