Millions of residents and visitors to London will be able to access free Wi-Fi with the help of O2.

The mobile operator has signed a deal with Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that will see a Metro wireless network installed on lamp posts and other street furniture to offer free of charge net connections in Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea.

O2 said the network will run at no cost to the councils or the taxpayer. It will initially be rolled out in a handful of areas beginning in January 2012 with the rest of the borough following throughout the year.

"This ground-breaking deal - the first of its kind in the UK - will see us deliver high quality connectivity across London in time for London 2012," said Derek McManus, Chief Operating Officer for O2.

"Our longer-term aim is to expand our footprint of O2 Wifi, which is open to everyone, and also intelligently enhance our services at street level, where people need the network the most."

O2 first announced its Wi-Fi platform in January last year. Initially access from the hotspots was free to O2 and non-O2 mobile customers. However, this move will see the service extended to those that are not O2 mobile customers.

The mobile network is also in the process of trialling a 4G Long-Term Evolution network in London. The nine-month trial, which is an extension of an earlier 4G trial in Slough that has been running since 2009 in conjunction with Huawei, will cover 25 locations in the UK's capital that make up a combined 40 square kilometre area stretching from Hyde Park to The O2 in Greenwich and also encompassing Canary Wharf, Soho, Westminster, South Bank and Kings Cross.

Around 1,000 consumers and businesses have been given Samsung B3730 mobile broadband dongles so they can connect to the net using the as part of the 2.6GHz spectrum, which is currently used to provide terrestrial TV broadcasts but will be freed up thanks to the switchover to digital TV.