Virgin Media exploring the launch of a public Wi-Fi network
Virgin Media is "actively exploring" a plan to roll out a wireless network to rival BT Openzone and The Cloud with tens of thousands of fast Wi-Fi access points around the country. The company would place wireless routers in secure public locations and connect them to the green cabinets used to power their network.
Users could expect 5Mbps speeds from the network, a bit slower than BT Openzone's 8Mbps. They would not be looking to provide blanket coverage but instead offer services where there is a demand. One of the reasons for this is that their network doesn't always offer blanket coverage of the Cities and towns they are in.
"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.
Previous attempts were to fulfil a social objective. This is to solve a real problem. Steve Jobs [chief executive of Apple] has created phenomenal demand, and we've got the best fibre [optic] network in the country that could help meet it. This isn't about building broad coverage, it's about giving you fast, predictable, access where you need it."Kevin Baughan, (Director of advanced technology) Virgin Media
Along a similar vein as BT's customers, Virgin would likely offer free access to home broadband and also Virgin Mobile customers whilst others could sign up to a pay-as-you-go or subscription service.
Wireless coverage is always on the rise, with BT recently boasting over 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots, although the vast majority of these are shared with a user's broadband connection. London already has plans to deploy a city-wide wireless network in time for the 2012 Olympic games but general coverage of such networks tends to leave some holes. Any further padding available through other networks such as Virgin to fill in existing holes would be beneficial, although the ability to roam on to these networks would probably be seen as the greatest benefit of new networks.