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LONDON, United Kingdom – Nokia is sponsoring a free Wi-Fi service to find out exactly how owners of its new Lumia 800 and 710 handsets want to use the internet at street level.

The network will operate in London from today until the end of 2011. And it will help Nokia’s partners to roll-out similar services across the globe.

All it takes is one touch to select the free Wi-Fi service on the Lumia’s settings page and you’re good to go. After that, the network will recognize you every time you go back, making the service seamless.

With 26 hotspots across the city in popular shopping areas such as Oxford Street, anyone buying a Nokia Lumia close to an access point on November 16 (the first day of sale) will be able to go straight online with their handset via the free Wi-Fi as soon as they leave the shop.

John Nichols, Head of Marketing at Nokia UK, said at the launch today: “Nokia believes you can upgrade everyday moments to make them amazing. Providing free Wi-Fi access to London commuters and visitors does just that. On-the-go access has become an indispensable part of modern life.

“From tourists finding their way around the capital, to commuters updating Facebook or browsing on the move, we all depend on mobile to share our everyday experiences and enhance our lives.

“Nokia is proud to sponsor this pilot which we hope will connect people even more easily than before.”

using Nokia Lumia 800 with Wi-Fi

Partnered by independent Wi-Fi provider Spectrum Interactive, the scheme will provide data to determine optimum locations and bandwidth to best meet customer demand.  For Nokia, the project is a further extension of its strategy aimed at connecting the next billion users to the internet, putting customers first by providing economic and efficient web access and empowering people through great technology.

The free Wi-Fi service will work on any smartphone, regardless of service provider and the cross-platform Nokia Maps app will guide you to the hotspots.

Spectrum Interactive chairman Simon Alberga said: “Wi-Fi is evolving. It’s still chargeable at many places where people dwell for a while, like airports and hotels.

“And we’ve seen it evolve into a free service in cafes and restaurants where people stay for a shorter time.

“So it has to be free on the streets, and Nokia has helped us achieve this. We want to observe user patterns, how long people use it and where, but no personal data will be accessed.”

Spectrum has housed the Wi-Fi units in phone booths and is looking at other “street furniture” suitable for the scheme going forward.