Last month we revealed that Virgin Media had begun to trial a new FON style technology that would turn their SuperHub cable broadband routers into public WiFi hotspots (full details). Today it’s being reported that they’ll soon be doing something similar with their huge network of UK street cabinets.
The new WiFi sharing service is designed to mirror the approach that BT similarly takes with their FON enabled HomeHub(s), although BT has been doing this for many years and thus Virgin Media are keen to go one step further in order to give themselves an edge.
Apparently the solution to this is to do something that we haven’t seen BT attempt, at least not at the same scale, which is to install public WiFi hotspots inside local street cabinets (here). The move would be a good way to improve the reach of their WiFi network, particularly since Virgin Media’s cable network is predominantly focused upon dense urban areas.
On top of that the new technology could also be used to help off-load some of the more expensive 3G and 4G data traffic from their EE based Virgin Mobile network, which would hopefully deliver a cost saving. This may become more important once BT completes its acquisition of EE (Virgin Media are already known to be discussing a tie-up of some sort with Vodafone).
At present the details of this new WiFi deployment to street cabinets are extremely limited, although now is the perfect time to do it since the cable operator is busy with the expansion of its network to reach 17 million premises by 2020 (around 60% UK coverage) and preparing future upgrades to support faster broadband speeds (it’s widely expected that the next product tier will max out at 300Mbps).