Virgin Media to Launch Free WiFi in London

By Tracey E. Schelmetic August 04, 2011

Lucky Londoners.

Virgin Media, the telecom, news and entertainment arm of Richard Branson’s giant empire, has just announced plans to launch a city-wide WiFi scheme in London. Even better, it’s going to be free (a fact that is no doubt horrifying its competitors: while BT has its OpenZone WiFi network in the city, it’s NOT, in fact, free to anyone but a narrow pool of customers).

At the time of the announcement to investors, Virgin Media’s Neil Berkett said, “The proposition would be that we would provide free WiFi access for all..... It is part of our ethos of advancing digital lifestyles.”

Berkett also said that 3G mobile broadband networks were not satisfying consumers’ demands for data on the move. He indicate that the delay expected before 4G networks and devices are widely available throughout the city is leaving a gap that is failing to serve Londoners’ wireless connectivity needs.

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

Virgin Media is currently negotiating with London city councils to place equipment for the WiFi network into cabinets used by cable companies.

Individuals who are not subscribers to Virgin Media will have access to the free WiFi at a rate of 0.5Mbps: not a blisteringly fast rate, but good enough for most people’s needs. Virgin Media customers, on the other hand, will be able to access at a faster rate of 10Mbps, reported today. By contrast, BT’s Openzone charges £3 (about $4.88) an hour or £5 (about $8.13) a day for access, though it is free to BT Total Broadband customers.

Europe’s biggest WiFi network, The Cloud, was bought by BSkyB last year and is currently available in 4500 hotspots and is free to O2 customers, says

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TechZone360. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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