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ISP Virgin Media UK Plans Public Broadband Wireless WiFi Hotspot Service

Posted: 23rd Nov, 2010 By: MarkJ
virgin media uk plans broadband wi-fi serviceCable giant Virgin Media UK has confirmed that it is "exploring the possibility" of launching a public wireless ( Wi-Fi ) broadband Hotspot service. Virgin's access points would reportedly be placed at various popular locations around the country but would not aim for blanket coverage.

The service would essentially mirror BT's (BTOpenzone) own Wi-Fi Hotspots and leverage Virgin's existing Cable Modem (DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS3.0) infrastructure to deliver a fairly standard wireless internet speed of up to 5Mbps (Megabits per second).

That might not sound like much but, for a normal public Wi-Fi Hotspot, it's not bad and is still superior to most Mobile Broadband connections (average of around 1Mbps+). Virgin's interest has apparently been peaked by the growing use of Wi-Fi as a supplement for Mobile Broadband on modern Smartphone's, such as the iPhone.

Kevin Baughan, Virgin's Director of Advanced Technology, told the Telegraph:

"We have been inspired by what Cablevision has been able to do in New York and are actively exploring the possibility of creating a similar network here. It takes the sheer power of the cable broadband network and puts it where people need it."

Curiously Virgin believes that its system will succeed over competing services because they will not attempt to offer blanket city-wide coverage and will instead focus on areas where there is sufficient demand. That sounds remarkably identical to how most Wi-Fi Hotspot operators work.

However the UK market for Wi-Fi Hotspots is already fairly mature and it will take a substantial effort to improve upon BT's 3,900 existing Hotspots. Not to mention that BT also "borrows" some of the Wi-Fi coverage from 1,955,000 of its fixed line Total Broadband customers via their BT-FON service.

At present Virgin Media is still mulling over its options, although existing cable broadband customers seem destined to gain free access (again, just like BT does). It is also known to be exploring contract and pay-as-you-go subscription models, not to mention local community services.

A bit of extra competition never hurt anybody but Virgin Media do appear to be somewhat late to the party here. However their capacity for churning out impressive feats on short notice should not be underestimated, although neither should that £5.7bn pile of debt.
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