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Virgin Media to Install WiFi Hotspots in its UK Street Cabinets

Monday, August 17th, 2015 (3:41 pm) - Score 2,424
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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).

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve

    Sounds like a decent idea however where is all the back haul fibre coming from that is stopping some places from being upgraded?

  2. Avatar MikeW

    Any idea which cabinets? Just the active ones, presumably.

    And does this give them any wider WiFi coverage than being available from the house next to the cabinet?

    • Avatar DTMark

      I guess like for like the coverage can be better if the wireless signal from the cabinet can extend further since it’s not “inside a house”.

      The key USP I could see is that instead of meagre portions of someone’s potentially already meagre broadband connection being used, far greater bandwidth could be made available.

  3. Full announcement expected within the next few weeks, which should offer some more details.

  4. Would existing broadband users be able to use this service or would it be an extra expense?

    • Avatar Robert

      Probably only existing Virgin users will be able to use it freely. If it is anything like BTs system you basically log in with your ISP email/password. If you trust anyone enough to give them that info then yeah they could use it freely.

  5. Avatar mrpops2ko

    @DTMark

    That sounds like a great idea, you could theoretically ‘top up’ your connection speed, by maybe virtually bonding your wireless connection with your wired one to increase throughput. I suppose that’ll be some kind of abuse of service though, but who knows.

    • Avatar DTMark

      Thinking more of the Wi-Fi users, in so far as – might be nice to be able to connect to free Wi-Fi, but if that only gets you a miserable half a meg of upload because the user is on some cack ADSL connection, even 3G would be preferable: this would give the opportunity to provide 3G-beating speeds by taking the bandwidth from the cabinet.

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