Virgin Media uses customers’ routers to provide free wi-fi

Virgin Media launch 50Mb with Rachel Stevens December 2008Virgin Media is planning to use its customers own routers to create a free public wi-fi scheme in London.

Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media said he 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”.

Virgin Media’s wi-fi network will be freely available to anyone at 0.5Mbps, and to its home broadband subscribers at up to 10Mbps.

The approach contrasts with BT’s extensive Openzone network, which although free to BT broadband customers, is charged at as much as £5.99 for 90 minutes’ browsing.

Berkett described the plans as “a punt” that will cost Virgin Media “a few million pounds” and will keep BT honest.

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, he said.

The gap that is increasingly occurring between consumers’ need for data outside the home and what they can get on 3G.

Virgin Media plans to install wi-fi 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, not really. They’ve promised that any outsider who connects to one of the router will be given a completely separate connection so it won’t affect a customer’s wi-fi performance or the speed of the internet.

If customers are uncomfortable about sharing wi-fi with others, Virgin says you can easily opt-out, but it does mean you then won’t have access to anyone else’s WiFi.