Virgin Media is now discussing with London authorities about providing a free Wi-Fi service to the public, using bandwidth that is not being used while people are at work.
In an investor’s call last week, Virgin Media’s Chief Executive Officer Neil Berkett said that the company is in “advanced negotiations” with some London boroughs about giving half a megabit of free internet connectivity, which ramps up to 10 megabits per second for Virgin cable customers.
Berkett said that Virgin’s cable network is “effectively idle during the day,” so he said that filling it Wi-Fi backhaul while the 3G service is still not perfected and 4G has yet to arrive.
The company plans to place Wi-Fi routers in street-side cabinet, and would connect it into the company’s cable network.
“We may consider speaking to one of the mobile network operators for wholesaling as an activity,” said the CEO. He also said that he was taking a “punt” on millions of investment into the free service, which he hopes would enhance the people’s digital lifestyles.
The company’s interest in free public Wi-Fi was first revealed in November, when Virgin Media’s director of advanced technology said that he had been inspired by a scheme used by U.S. cable network Cablevision. It covered New York City with Wi-Fi when 3G networks were struggling to cope with the boom of smartphones.
The company is still talking with borough councils, focusing on gaining permission for the installation of cabinets. Berkett was optimistic that the new service will be available “in the not too distant future.”