By Steve McCaskill
Virgin Media will turn its nationwide network of street cabinets into WiFi hotspots, offering free wireless connectivity to its customers and allowing it to offload traffic from its mobile service, according to a report.
The Telegraph says details of the service will be made available in the next few weeks, alongside plans to turn customers' home routers into public WiFi access points, similar to BT. However, not even BT, whose network comprises five million hotspots, has yet turned its cabinets into access points.
Virgin Media WiFi
Last month, some Virgin Media customers in the Thames Valley region were sent letters, informing them of plans to issue a firmware update that would turn their routers into hotspots, with additional bandwidth allocated so the service they are paying for would not be affected.
Virgin Media mobile customers already have access to WiFi via The Cloud's wireless service and the Branson-branded company already operates WiFi hotspots in London Underground stations, and on behalf of a number of local authorities.
The creation of a nationwide WiFi network would allow Virgin Media to potentially mimic the 'inside out' network plans of BT, where as much mobile traffic on the Virgin Media mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) is carried via its own infrastructure, reducing the cost it pays to EE and improving indoor signal for customers.
Virgin Media is currently embarking on the single largest network expansion in its history, with the intention of increasing its footprint to 17 million homes and businesses by the end of the decade.
TechWeekEurope has contacted the company, but had not received a response at the time of publication.