The firm’s chief executive Neil Berkett told investors that it was in “quite advanced negotiations” with London councils over the plans and said he was optimistic the rollout would begin “in the not too distant future”.
“The proposition would be that we would provide free Wifi access for all,” he said.
Virgin Media’s WiFi network will be freely available to anyone at 0.5Mbps, and to its home broadband subscribers at up to 10Mbps.
Mr Berkett described the plans as “a punt” that will cost Virgin Media “a few million pounds” and will “keep them [BT] honest”.
“It is part of our ethos of advancing digital lifestyles,” he said.
He said that 3G mobile broadband networks were not satisfying consumers’ demands for data on the move and suggested that the few years’ delay expected before 4G networks and devices are widely available left a gap in them market.
“The gap that is increasingly occurring between consumers’ need for data outsidfe the home and what they can get on 3G,” said Mr Berkett, adding that Virgin Media might wholesale the faster level of access to mobile networks.
The firm’s interest in public WiFi was first revealed in Novemeber, when its director of advanced technology said virgin media had been “inspired” by a scheme launched by the United States cable network Cablevision. It covered New York with WiFi at a time when American 3G networks were struggling to cope with the smartphone boom.
Virgin Media plans to install WiFi routers in its existing infrastructure, including the street-side cabinets that distribute its cable network into home. The talks with councils are focused on gaining permission for the necessary works.
- Virgin Media to ‘take a punt’ on free London WiFi network (telegraph.co.uk)
- London may soon have a free public WiFi network (thenextweb.com)
- Virgin Media to offer free Wi-Fi in the London (electronista.com)
- London Could Soon Get Free Wi-Fi Everywhere (tech.slashdot.org)
- Virgin Media to roll out free WiFi in London, bums with iPads rejoice (engadget.com)
- Virgin mulls handing out free Wi-Fi (go.theregister.com)