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Virgin Media Turns SuperHub Routers into UK Public WiFi Hotspots

Thursday, July 16th, 2015 (3:33 am) - Score 33,902
superhub v2

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.

Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Avatar Jazmin

    I am of the opinion that if they charge you for providing the service they have no right to offer it free to people passing by

    There will be instances where the owner of an account can give access free to a family member living elsewhere who can piggy back off someone else’s internet account

    I think they should offer a discount off the internet service charges for people who live above shops etc where their connection will be utilised more actively or people In apartments where someone could permanently use their connection because their father is a customer. They can very easily access data that will show which accounts are used more frequently

    • Avatar ash

      Then as it suggests in the article

      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.

      just disable it and no one will be able to connect to you, its a 2 way street if you want access to some one else’s you share yours, if you have no desire to use any one else’s and at the same time don’t want them to use yours then disable it.

      it also mentions that they will most likely be boosting the speeds slightly so it wont affect your speeds, i already get 165 of what’s meant to be 152 so i certainly am not going to complain if some one takes a few meg off me, i have relatives who wont have internet but are surrounded by virgin media wifi networks so id defo welcome this for when im visiting as mobile reception is pants too so i can defo see the bonus

      Ash

    • Avatar Ignition

      It doesn’t use the subscriber’s bandwidth. Per the article has its own separate and dedicated bandwidth so doesn’t impinge on the user’s paid-for tier.

  2. Avatar freeman

    Cheeky tw*t*!!! I guess this is the real reason they made these “superhubs” and started dishing em out, so they can save on costs of rolling out wifi, get the customer’s to do it.

  3. Like the idea Virgin Media however dont just enable the “Public WiFi Hotspot” ask the user if they would like to “opt in” first!

    • Avatar MattP

      BT are no different, BTFON is opt out, not opt in. On earlier BT hubs you could disable FON in the administrator settings, but not now. Account opt out is the only option, and it takes 28 days…

  4. So, I have a free hotspot in my house, running over my own router, but it has a different IP address so its not linked to.me own broadband that I pay for, that’s what they are saying…

    The first thing that I think is: that use more electricity. Any process that’s additional tonthe standard process running on my router will use additiknal power, so it costs me to provide their free service. It may well be £1.00 a year, but that’s not the point. I should get discounted that amount for enabling it surely?

    Secondly, and this may just be me: I now have a complete, separate network with internet access. It not my IP address and it’s not my bandwidth, it’s also public so I am in no way accountable for anything done over this connection. I can’t be as I have no way of knowing what’s being downloaded, as I can’t monitor it. So, what stops me or anyone else downloading loads of illegal stuff on it? I could surely download a load of movies and music and stuff and never be accountable? It’s not my IP address after all? Surely that’s a rediculous idea? I assume it’s got a walled garden or some protection? I already spend half my time making sure my kids don’t go Facebook, instagram and a hundred other things by filtering my own network access lists. With a free internet point in my house that anyone can access suddenly I’m accountable for every anonymous user who wanders by. That can’t be right, surely? If there’s a way to limit what people can do and as long as I am in no way responsible for what’s done via this connection its not so bad, even paying to run it may be cancelled out by having access on other people’s connection if it helps speed up my abysmal access speeds on virgin mobile.

    Are we sure they’ve thought it through? I know virgin of old. They aren’t the brightest when it comes to things like forward thinking.

    • Avatar Neil

      “so I am in no way accountable for anything done over this connection”
      Correct.

      “as I can’t monitor it”
      Also correct. And thank god for that.

      “that use more electricity”
      Weak argument. It would barely change power consumption at all.

      “It’s not my IP address after all”
      You would need to log into the public Virgin Media Wi-Fi service with a valid Virgin Media login, just like you do with the equivalent BT Openzone/FON service, so they would still be able to know who is doing what and hold them to account if needed. But it would be entirely separate from your own connection and Virgin Media account, yes.

      “I already spend half my time making sure my kids don’t go Facebook, instagram and a hundred other things by filtering my own network access lists”
      Congratulations on being a responsible parent and teaching your kids how to be safe online and to recognise the dangers of social media. Oh wait, you are doing the EXACT OPPOSITE, and they could just as well go and use any of these services on any other Internet connection in the world that isn’t yours, including over mobile data connections, other people’s Wi-Fi networks or public/school computers without you knowing – which they are probably doing, by the way, because they’re kids. You need to teach kids how to be responsible with things like this, not just to firewall them off.

      “suddenly I’m accountable for every anonymous user who wanders by”
      Wrong. You just contradicted yourself. See above.

    • Avatar comnut

      Zoltari: so you are the guy that *unplugs* your TV at night, and woders why it takes ages to switch on???

    • Avatar ANON

      People can only use that extra public Wifi if they are themselves a user of BT or Virgin. Its not just an open network, you have to sign in once your connected. If you maybe tried it before complaining you might find it useful. It allows me to have internet in my apartment when im on holiday to be able to check in for flights home and so many other places like when im in town and at airports. All this just for a little extra power and no disrupted service im happy that BT offer it and i think more ISPs should too!

  5. Avatar mozgie

    Was wondering what about if I dont use their superhub for wireless, would this still apply to me ?
    I have separate router on the network which is for my wireless.
    Thanks

    • Avatar comnut

      It would depend if you have switched your virgin hub to ‘modem only’ mode… But then they may only be using your hub to Authenticate – the actual wifi aerial may NOT be in your home, but in the local street-side box…

  6. Avatar Builder

    I am opting out!!!

    No thanks to my router being used by strangers!! Install your own equipment for Public Wifi Virgin Media!!

  7. Avatar Darren

    Having the ability to pick up a wireless signal in more places is beneficial in the sense that it’s convenient, it helps to provide a service in areas with poor 3G/4G signal and it also allows offloading of bandwidth to save money for VM (by offloading voice and mobile data traffic) and the end user (by way of decreased mobile data usage).

    However, while they may be creating a separate wireless SSID (essentially a separate VLAN for public data), and although they’re assigning additional bandwidth to the router for that portion of traffic, I’m still put off by the idea for one simple reason – wireless bandwidth.

    Applying a software update to my SuperHub does not increase the physical limits of the radio hardware inside my SuperHub. The overall performance is governed by the specifications of the hardware regardless of the wireless SSID the clients are connected to.

    So if people are wandering past and connecting to my hotspot, it effectively makes less wireless bandwidth available for my own (and my family’s) devices, since 802.11x bandwidth per device decreases as the number of connected devices increases.

    Also, it’s worth noting additional wireless networks in the area further decreases wireless performance due to channel overlap etc.

    While the additional usage might not amount to much, I simply don’t want to further compromise the performance of my SuperHub for the benefit of others.

    • Avatar comnut

      **read** the whole article!!!
      ‘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’

    • Avatar mrpops2ko

      @comnut

      re-read his argument, which is a somewhat valid but personally i’d say weak one. It is the limitation on wireless speeds and interference (through having multiple users and overlying networks / channels).

    • Avatar comnut

      mrpops2ko:
      I dont think you understand the tech… The superhub is NOT the only thing connected to the virginmedia network..
      Where do you think Virgin TV, telephone, etc come from????
      And how many people have Virgin 152Mbs internet???

      I think there is plenty of capacity to spare…

    • Avatar Neil

      @ comnut:

      You missed Darren’s point. The problem is not bandwidth on Virgin Media’s cable network – the problem is bandwidth on the Super Hub’s wireless interface, which is entirely different.

      802.11 wireless transfer speeds drop somewhat when more devices are connected to the network because of the way that the signals are division-multiplexed – that is, more devices trying to fight for “airtime” on the channel. If you have 10 devices on the network, then each device will get a slower wireless speed than if you just had the one device connected, as there are more devices competing for slots on the band to transmit/receive in.

      Maximum wireless speeds (i.e. the quoted 300mbps on 802.11n) are very theoretical, and rarely happen in practice. Also, if slower devices (i.e. 802.11b or 802.11g) join a faster (i.e. 802.11n) network too then the wireless speed can also be reduced for other connected devices to help maintain compatibility.

  8. Avatar ugo vendimini

    I could be wrong ,I see a greater congregation of people hanging around free wifi spot areas,do you need this outside your house.

  9. Avatar knugget

    @commut

    It’s you who isn’t understanding the tech.. Yes there is more than enough bandwidth from your VM coax cable and onto the VM network (Some subscribers already have 300+Mb/s internet connectivity rolled out to them, lucky buggers!).

    What Darren is quite rightly pointing out is that the available bandwidth between your wireless device and Supertub will remain the same and is a limitation of 802-11n and your Supertub’s wireless transceiver..

    Of course VM are going to tell you there will be no impact on your conection, doesn’t mean it’s true.

    What I want know and why I came a googling is; will it still be active in Modem mode? And I don’t for one single minute believe VM will simply use your modem for authentcation with an antenna located in the street box. That’s the most rediculous comment I’ve heard in a long time.

    anyhow I’m off to whinge on the VM forums before I decide whether to opt out or not .. (I’m part of the trial!)…

  10. Avatar STFU

    People can only use that extra public Wifi if they are themselves a user of BT or Virgin. Its not just an open network, you have to sign in once your connected. If you maybe tried it before complaining you might find it useful. It allows me to have internet in my apartment when im on holiday to be able to check in for flights home and so many other places like when im in town and at airports. All this just for a little extra power and no disrupted service im happy that BT offer it and i think more ISPs should too!

  11. Avatar Sean O'Neill

    Haha,I don’t think people have read the article properly, it means that for virgin customers you will have access to Wi-Fi, whilst out and about, instead of using expressive data packages, it’s not a public Wi-Fi hot spot, you would have to log in with your details, I think it’s a great idea,

  12. Avatar Gaz

    I was searching for how to find my connection speed and found this article.

    Just before I got here, I noticed that there are 4 “Guest Wifi” (2 x 2.4ghz and 2 x 5ghz) options in the advanced sections. This must be what it’s for.

    I guess this means you could use 2 internet connections in your own home – I wonder how fast the guest wifi is… Then again, the VM broadband speeds are so fast anyway, you probably don’t need to make use of a second connection – unless you lived in a big student house!

    The other thing is you might be able to do a deal with your neighbour… get them to pay you a monthly fee and allow them access to your VM guest account.

  13. Avatar nigel

    think if this happens we should charge them for rent modem space and electric

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