Will Virgin rollout free Wi-Fi for London?


Virgin is planning a Wi-Fi network for London that would be free to use, but it is not revealing much about timing.

Following Virgin's results last week, chief executive (CEO) Neil Berkett said the ISP was in "quite advanced conversations" with a number of boroughs and councils.

Berkett said he was optimistic the first deal would be secured "in the not too distant future."

"The proposition would be we would provide free Wi-Fi for all at 0.5Mbps with full access to Virgin Media customers at up to 10Mbps," Berkett said.

"We may consider speaking to one of MNOs about wholesaling that as an activity. There are very few things I take a punt on as a business person this is probably one of them."

Virgin has not revealed any more, though, and little is known about the scale of the project. Berkett said a number of areas in London would be covered under the proposals.

"There's not really a lot to add at this stage. Talks are underway and the consumer proposition has yet to be finalised," a spokesperson told IT Pro.

Berkett said the value for the customer would come through not having to use 3G, with Wi-Fi offering significantly better speeds.

"It is something that I think is part of our ethos in investing in advancing digital lifestyles and pushing the role we play in UK plc as the other infrastructure," Berkett added.

The service could provide some serious competition for BT Openzone, which charges for access.

Virgin may be targeting the Olympics for completion of the rollout.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said he wanted free Wi-Fi for London in time for the 2012 Games, yet little headway has been made.

Plans to introduce mobile coverage in the Underground in time for the event were canned earlier this year.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.