Virgin Media to launch free Wi-Fi for all across London

Getting connected in a major city can be a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. On the one hand, there tend to be more cell towers in metropolitan areas than out in the sticks, so you’re more likely to find higher speeds in the middle of a city than in the middle of nowhere. But on the other hand, the sheer number of users trying to connect, with increasingly data-hungry smartphones and tablets, can overwhelm networks and leave them struggling to keep up with the growing demand for instant access to websites, social feeds and online video.

Some cities have seen the deployment of vast Wi-Fi zones to help ease the burden of traffic on cellular networks. The Telegraph reports that Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, today confirmed that his company will shortly be doing just that in London, with the intention of providing free Wi-Fi access for everyone across much of the city.

Virgin Media will not be the first company to provide blanket Wi-Fi coverage in London. BT, the UK’s largest telecoms provider, already provides its Openzone network across much of London and the UK, and provides access free to users of its home broadband service. To non-customers, however, connecting to Openzone can be costly, with charges reaching up to £5.99 (around $9.80) for just 90 minutes of browsing. Another provider, The Cloud, operates a Wi-Fi zone across London’s financial district, but provides only 15 minutes of free connectivity per day.

Virgin’s network will allow anyone to connect, free of charge, regardless of whether or not they’re an existing customer, although not everyone will be able to connect at the same speed. Customers of Virgin Media’s home broadband services will be able to get online at up to 10Mbps via the new network; non-subscribers would be limited to speeds of just 512Kbps. However, unlike with Wi-Fi zones from other providers, there would be no limit on how long a user could stay connected.

The company plans to deliver the new Wi-Fi network through much of the same infrastructure that powers its high-speed cable broadband services, and Mr Berkett has stated Virgin is in advanced negotiations with London councils to secure the permissions needed to begin activating the new network “in the not too distant future”, although he was careful not to specify a firm date to investors.

Just over a week ago, Virgin Media announced the world’s fastest cable broadband, successfully establishing a trial in London delivering speeds of 1.5Gbps downstream and 150Mbps upstream. The company also provides the UK’s fastest home broadband service (100Mbps), which is now available to over 6.5m homes.

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14 Comments

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AFineFrenzy said,
They should probably fix all the problems with their home customers before doing something like this.

Ive been with Virgin/NTL for the best part of a decade and had few problems

AdmiralRooster said,

Ive been with Virgin/NTL for the best part of a decade and had few problems

Well, then! I guess my problems just don't exist now you've said that!

You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God. Especially when it comes to Branson.

coth said,
You must pay for everything in this world, one way and another. There is nothing free except the grace of God. Especially when it comes to Branson.

Virgin Media is not and never was a Branson company...
And it sounds free to me, at least more free than any other existing solution around London.

actually Branson is a major share holder, even the logo is the same as the one his company uses. Virgin Media was formed by merging the Virgin mobile phone provider with various broadband providers like NTL.

mounty said,
actually Branson is a major share holder, even the logo is the same as the one his company uses. Virgin Media was formed by merging the Virgin mobile phone provider with various broadband providers like NTL.

still only the 3rd largest shareholder last i heard.... its still NTL:telewest... but they've licensed the virgin name from branson for 30 yrs

I can see a few potential problems.

firstly, and maybe the most important for virgin media is the quality of service they provide. As with all ISPs a lot of the time its down to the user's setup that is the problem. And I know we're all technical and know how to diag the home connection to place blame, for the rest of the UK internet peps they don't and will just say its 'stupid virgin connection can take a dump' or or who ever they're connected with.
So what we have is a wifi network that could be really good, and I'm guessing will be good if they provide enough hotspots for people to connect to... but I feel bad reviews by people who don't know their rear end from their elbow might put a damper on the wifi service and maybe virgin media as a whole.

Secondly, why would an existing customer who gets their lowest teir 20Mb/s service continue their subscription if they can just use the 512Kb/s service for free. I'm going to have to assume its a portal login system with just http and a lot of filtering bolted on maybe even a block on the maximum file size downloadable.
However, with the surge increase of mobile phones with wifi and cameras with wifi enabled, its going to be interesting to see if they'll beable to connect and just work without having to jump through hoops for 10 minutes just to view a webpage.


Lastly, whats always struck my strange is why they didn't just put a access point in them green boxes at the end of the street and just pop a stick on the box saying free wifi if you stand here. Problem solved (yeah i wish it was that simple too)

of course it will not cover london that much, just specific key-points I believe

anyway I hope it will be WPA otherwise I cannot wait to see all those 'hackers' catching all that sensitive info with firesheep-alike programs

SHADOW-XIII said,
of course it will not cover london that much, just specific key-points I believe

anyway I hope it will be WPA otherwise I cannot wait to see all those 'hackers' catching all that sensitive info with firesheep-alike programs

Ummm, how about making sure that any passwords/sensitive information that is sent over the internet is via SSL? intact regardless of whether or not it is using WPA websites should be using SSL when it comes to logging in pages, credit card payment an so forth.