Chesham gets 166Mbit/sec free Wi-Fi on (and in) the high street

Virgin Media is offering free superfast Wi-Fi to shoppers on Chesham's high street, using infrastructure laid under their feet.

The free Wi-Fi network will feature speeds up to 166Mbits/sec, and be available to anyone - all of Chesham's 21,000 residents and businesses, as well as anyone stopping through the Chiltern town's high street or parts of a local park.

The wireless network is the first to be delivered via a system called Smart Pavement, which tucks the access point under the pavement in a Wi-Fi manhole. The equipment is hidden beneath a specially developed resin cover that's waterproof but still allows radio waves to travel through easily, to help offer wider coverage.

A Virgin Media spokeswoman said that makes the free Wi-Fi infrastructure easy to install and means the company can easily roll out public wireless that connects directly to its fibre network.

"Not only is this the first time we've built metropolitan Wi-Fi directly from our street cabinets, it is also the UK's first deployment of a WiFi connected pavement," added Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media. "It is literally public Wi-Fi under your feet. We want to build more networks like this across the UK and encourage more forward thinking councils just like Chesham to get in touch."

Chesham's high street only has a single "Smart Pavement" in use, however, with the rest of the Wi-Fi coverage provided by access points embedded in Virgin's street-side cabinets, which offer range of 80m.

Local MP Cheryl Gillan said the network could help users save cash but could also become the backbone of future tech innovations. "It will keep the community connected, help Chesham people save some money on their mobile bill and could be a key piece of the jigsaw in connected cities moving forward."