Cable operator Virgin Media has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that their on-going efforts to turn existing SuperHub broadband routers into public WiFi hotspots, which would allow people outside your home to access the Internet when nearby, won’t be launching in 2016 as hoped.
The new feature, which is similar to BT’s embedded and widely used FON technology in their HomeHub and SmartHub routers, was first revealed in July 2015 (here) as part of a trial that was focused upon the Thames Valley (England) areas of Reading, Bracknell, Basingstoke, Newbury and Marlow.
Once enabled the new feature creates a separate Internet connection to the SuperHub, which is offered to the public via WiFi via its own separate IP address. At the time we were told that there would be “no bandwidth impact on customers” because those who consent to trial will have “additional, separate, bandwidth allocated” to their hub for the public access.
We should say that this feature would, once launched, be optional and customers could opt-out. But those that choose not to use it won’t be able to benefit from any of the related VM hotspots in their area.
The operator has long pondered introducing such a feature, although the complexity of making it work correctly has proven to be a difficult obstacle. As ever the purpose of any trial is to help identify bugs and in October 2015 we revealed that Virgin had found some nasty ones (here), which forced them to delay the launch into 2016.
A Spokesperson for VM told ISPreview.co.uk (Oct 2015):
“We’re still committed to building a best-in-class public WiFi network. Our plans for Virgin Media WiFi are ambitious, including some network innovations and partnerships to bring access to hotspots in places such as pubs, airports and more. Creating a good customer experience is often a lengthy and difficult process.
In order to deliver the level of customer experience Virgin Media is renowned for, we have decided to extend the beta trial and push back launch into 2016. This has meant that we have reverted to the original firmware to ensure there is minimal impact on customers. We are in trial in Reading with some changes to network (and continue to monitor this closely) to test and improve the service until it meets our quality standards before launch.”
Since then there hasn’t been much news, save for a few official whispers earlier this year that we could probably expect a launch during the latter half of 2016. Most recently some of our sources have indicated that this plan has been delayed again and a spokesperson has now confirmed to us that the operator won’t have “more to say on this” until “early 2017“.