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Virgin Media Turns SuperHub Routers into UK Public WiFi Hotspots

Thursday, Jul 16th, 2015 (3:33 am) - Score 34,241

Cable operator Virgin Media (Liberty Global) will shortly start turning their SuperHub broadband routers into public WiFi hotspots so that other customers can access the Internet when nearby (e.g. those passing outside your property), which will mirror the approach that BT similarly takes with their FON enabled HomeHub(s).

The idea is something that Virgin Media has pondered in the past, although until now they’ve not made any concerted moves to turn it into a reality. Never the less it seems like BT will no longer be the only one that offers shared public WiFi hotspots, often by hiving off a small slice of performance from their fixed broadband connections.

Over the past few weeks several of the ISPs customers have reported receiving a letter that notifies them (or threatens, depending upon your perspective) of the operators intent to “turn lots of Virgin Media Super Hubs into WiFi hotspots (including yours).

The trial itself currently appears as if it will be focused upon the Thames Valley (England) areas of Reading, Bracknell, Basingstoke, Newbury and Marlow, although Virgin Media also states that they will then “start rolling it out across the UK” (officially the operator inform us that they have not yet committed to this).

Extract from Virgin Media’s Letter

How does it work?

We’ll switch on a separate internet connection to your Super Hub, which will become part of the WiFi network. Rest assured the broadband you love and pay for will stay exclusively yours – and remain just as secure. [ISPr Editor’s Note: There will be a separate IP address for the public WiFi element].

Do I need to do anything?

You don’t have to lift a finger – there’s no installation, cables or faff. Just sit back and enjoy your broadband as you do now. We’ll be back in touch to let you know when it’s up and running, so you can download our new app and get connected to the hotspots in your area.

The app remark is most likely a reference to Virgin’s new WiFi Buddy App (here). Otherwise we understand that the new SuperHub-based public WiFi service is expected to be switched-on during early August 2015. Customers will be able to opt-out of the new service through their ‘My VM Account’ page, but those that do won’t be able to use any of the related Virgin hotspots in their area.

Virgin Media has also informed ISPreview.co.uk that the trial will initially only be run on a certain specification of their SuperHub(s) and we’re still waiting to learn precisely which, although we’d be surprised if they didn’t try it out on their latest SuperHub 2AC routers (here); older models can sometimes be trickier to upgrade.

A spokesperson clarified that there will be “no bandwidth impact on customers” because those who consent to take part will have “additional, separate, bandwidth allocated” to their hub, which will be used to fuel the public WiFi element (no specifics were supplied).

Unlike BT’s FON hotspots, which do need to borrow some performance from their customers (especially those with ADSL lines where you can’t boost a connection beyond its physical copper limits), Virgin’s cable platform is more flexible with its capacity and does have the ability to provide a performance increase; assuming the area is already well served and not oversubscribed as can sometimes be the case.

The move may also help Virgin Media in the future as they would in theory be able to leverage the public WiFi in order to off-load more mobile data and calls to a cheaper side of their network. We hope to update with some more details in the coming days or weeks.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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