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Virgin Media UK Confirms Ambition to Launch FREE WiFi Internet Access in London

Posted: 02nd Aug, 2011 By: MarkJ
virgin media uk plans broadband wi-fi serviceCable operator Virgin Media, which last year announced that it was "exploring the possibility" of launching a national UK public wireless ( Wi-Fi ) broadband Hotspot service (here), has confirmed that one of the ideas under consideration would include a free service to cover the whole of London.

The service would be designed to mirror BT's (BTOpenzone) own Wi-Fi solution, which has seen extraordinary success, and leverage Virgin's existing Cable Modem (DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS3.0) infrastructure to deliver premium speeds of up to 10Mbps. Meanwhile the free service would only offer speeds of 0.5Mbps (512Kbps).

Virgin's CEO, Neil Berkett, said (Broadband TV News):

"There's very few things I take a punt on as a business person. It’s a few million pounds, but I think it is a real opportunity if you think about the gap that is occurring between what the consumer needs outside the home and what they can get on 3G."

Virgin claims that it has plenty of capacity to spare during the daytime, which could be used to support a Wi-Fi service. The operator also sees Wi-Fi as a strong customer retention tool for the future and one that might help to offset the growing demand for Mobile Broadband services (data is more expensive on mobile networks).

At present Virgin's service is already under trial in Kent and plans for a wholesale solution are also being considered. Virgin Media is even said to be in "advanced conversations" with local authorities about a wider national deployment.

The success of BT and potentially also Virgin Media in this field has put added pressure on the operators' rivals to follow suit. O2 already has a similar deal with BTOpenzone in place and Sky Broadband (BSkyB) recently acquired Wi-Fi operator The Cloud with a view to doing something similar (here). It's all good news for existing customers.
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