Virgin Media has announced plans for a public WiFi scheme in London, but unlike BT Openzone will be totally free.
Neil Berkett from Virgin Media told investors: “The proposition would be that we would provide free Wifi access for all….. It is part of our ethos of advancing digital lifestyles.’ The proposition will enable increasing numbers of people with smartphones too access the internet beyond the home.
The network will offer free WiFi to anyone at a rate of 0.5Mbps, while existing Virgin Media customers will be able to access the higher rate of 10Mbps. This contrasts sharply with BT Openzone, which currently charges £3 an hour or £5 a day for access and 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.
Virgin Media is currently in advanced negotiations with London councils to get permission for plans to position wireless routers in the existing cabinets currently used by its cable network.
There’s no news yet on when the roll-out will happen, but it’s certainly good news for smartphone owners. 0.5Mbps isn’t particularly quick compared to home speeds (with the exception of extreme rural areas), but is more than enough for browsing the web and updating Facebook. Will this mean BT will introduce free browsing for all? We’ll have to wait and see.