Virgin Media presses ahead with Wi-Fi plans, using access points underneath pavements to connect users to 166Mbps Internet in Chesham
Virgin Media is deploying access points underneath pavements to deliver 166Mbps public Wi-Fi in Chesham High Street as plans for a nationwide wireless network accelerate.
The company says the network is part of plans to build infrastructure that rivals BT Wi-Fi, allowing Virgin to provide outdoor access to customers and to potentially offload traffic from its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) – reducing the cost of its partnership with EE.
Letters have already been sent to customers informing them of plans to turn home routers into hotspots and street cabinets will also be converted into access points.
Virgin Media Wi-Fi
Chesham was chosen as the launchpad for the Virgin Wi-Fi service because of its size, support from local authorities and businesses and because its population is ‘demographically representative’ of the UK’s – allowing the operator to assess potential use of a nationwide network.
Access points have been deployed on ‘discreet’ street furniture, with the pavement hotspots placed underneath a specially designed resin cover.
Residents and businesses can access the network for free by connecting to ‘Virgin Media Wi-Fi’ – the same SSID used for the operator’s service on the London Underground – while Virgin customers with the Android ‘WiFi Buddy’ app connect automatically.
“Not only is this the first time we’ve built metropolitan Wi-Fi directly from our street cabinets, it is also the UK’s first deployment of a Wi-Fi connected pavement,” said Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media. “It is literally public Wi-Fi under your feet. We want to build more networks like this across the UK and encourage more forward thinking councils just like Chesham to get in touch.”
Local leaders have welcomed the development, claiming it will help residents get connected, save money on their mobile bill and attract more shoppers to the high street.
“We’re a very unique high street with many independent shops so we don’t have the IT infrastructure that big chains benefit from,” said Martin Parkes, local business owner and spokesperson for The Better Chesham Group. “This will hugely help levelling the playing field and will hopefully bring more people to Chesham too.”