LONDON has turned to Swindon for advice in setting up a wi-fi network.

Swindon’s wi-fi boss has been giving advice to the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, about how to establish a similar scheme in the capital in time for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

This is despite long delays in establishing the network in Swindon. So far only a pilot project in Highworth is under way.

Rikki Hunt, CEO of Digital City, was asked to go up to City Hall in London with the leader of Swindon council Rod Bluh recently to talk about the town’s trailblazing project.

They spent hours talking about the practicalities of the scheme with members of Mr Johnson’s team, as well as pointing out a few of the pitfalls.

The council has teamed up with Mr Hunt and digital technology firm aQovia to create the company Digital City UK, which will install a wi-fi wireless mesh covering the whole of the borough of Swindon under the brand name ‘Signal’.

Anyone in the town will be able to get up to two hours of internet access for free.

Initially it was claimed that the network would be fully up and running by April but this has had to be re-evaluated.

The Highworth scheme should be finished by the end of September when Mr Hunt hopes to have 100 registered subscribers – he currently has about 40.

Then work will begin on installing the network in the town centre.

Despite these delays, the mayor of London was still interested to learn about Swindon’s experience.

Mr Hunt said: “We were half pitching to them but it was also about sharing our experiences with them.

“The meeting was us saying ‘we have done this and we have had some good experiences and some terrible experiences’.

“As part of that we were asked if we would like to be involved and we said yes of course, but whether we will be or not history will tell us.

“But it was fabulous to be invited up there and recognised for what we are doing.

“You can imagine there are companies from all over the world who want to be involved in the London project and we were up there too.”

Mr Hunt said one bit of advice he did give the mayor’s office was not to set themselves unrealistic targets on getting certain things done by a certain time.

“I’m very ambitious and positive about what I can achieve and when I can achieve it,” he said. “When you look at what Boris Johnson is saying he wants, which is the whole of London to have wi-fi by 2012, that is stunningly ambitious.

He added: “It’s about setting realistic timetables and going and doing it quietly. If you put it into the public arena it means you set yourself up to be picked on.”

Swindon’s wi-fi plan came under fire when it emerged that the council had made a £450k loan to Mr Hunt and opponents said the deal was too secretive. However the district auditor cleared the council’s handling of the wi-fi project.

Mr Hunt said: “One of the interesting things is that the Government has been paying a lot of attention to Swindon because of what we have achieved in Highworth, which is a better product and a better speed of internet in a rural location, which isn’t being achieved anywhere else in the country at the moment.”