WiFi CityStates: London, England


ICA Bar and Cafe SignToday it’s time to leave our shores and cross the pond to fair Albion. And while London may not be a Web 2.0 hotbed (Dublin has all the buzz thanks to Ireland’s low taxes), Fleet Street’s teat has weaned plenty of pubs that cover tech or, more importantly, are enabled by it. The Register does a fine job of covering The IT Crowd, and it was at the Financial Times that Gawker Media’s Nick Denton cut his teeth in the media.

Of course, England is not exactly known for its coffee culture. First, tea is the caffeinated beverage of choice, not coffee. Second, cafes are a continental thing, while pubs are the social venue of choice for Britons. The last time my blogfather Om Malik organized a meetup in London, he chose the Princess Louise in Holborn on Bubble Generation’s advice — where pints of Samuel Smith’s are presumably rather more popular than non-fat lattes.

I asked my mate Mike Atherton of Londonist about the wifi hotspot scene in London. “Slowly more indie cafes are offering free wireless, but it’s still something aimed at the business suited type,” he explained, saying they were concentrated around The City and Canary Wharf and offering as an example Sobo Gallery on Tower Bridge Road, “which is aimed at up and coming Yuppie types.”

If you’re looking for a more creative, artsy scene, Mike recommended the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA). Centrally located near Buckingham Palace on The Mall, the bar and cafe offers free wifi, opens daily at noon, and stays open until one am Tuesday through Saturday. You do have to be a member or buy a day pass to enter. But don’t take my word for it — ZDNet UK’s Andrew Donoghue and Graeme Wearden recently toured London’s WiFi cafes, offering all the personal experience I can’t without a trip to my ancestral homeland.

Photo of ICA signage by Timo Arnall.


Rob Evans

I agree with Steve, you can’t put your tea bag down without it landing in the shadow of a startbucks. So I doubt tea is still the beverage of choice. But we haven’t ditched our bowlers hats yet though Om..got to keep the old traditions going.


I’d question whether tea is STILL the beverage of choice – in London anyway. Have you seen how many Starbucks et al. have sprung up over the last 10 years?


Two points:

(i) Another good sites for Web working is Foyle’s (the bookshop) cafe – jazz, coffee and free wifi.

(ii) In the UK a 3G PC card is a fairly good deal (Orange and Voda do them) – monthly contract is about £0.30 per Mb, makes you totally mobile at 3G bandwidth speeds, and I have used it on trains at 2G speeds up to Ipswich, Birmingham and Bristol so far.

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