Lampost network requires no subsidies or licensing
Britain’s Virgin Media is to be the first to offer city wide Wi-fi outside London, providing free mobile internet access to 1.2 million people in Bradford and Leeds via small cell transmitters. Though operated by the group’s corporate business arm, the service will be open to the public and is being ushered in under government plans to create a series of ‘super connected’ urban hubs. Earlier this month Virgin Media struck a deal to provide Wi-fi services to the London Underground, although it was beaten by O2 for the rights to equip Westminster with a similar network last year.The latest venture comes as telecom operators vie in a ‘land grab’ for Wi-fi sites, a desire driven by the fact they do not need to use scarce mobile spectrum to increase their coverage.
There are tenders to provide wireless networks to other cities around the country, with public funds of about £150 million allocated to ten cities to finance superfast-fast broadband with a minimum download speed of at least 80 Mbit/s.
Meanwhile, in Bradford and Leeds, Virgin Media will position enhanced Wi-fi transmitters on lampposts and other parts of the street linked to its nationwide fibre optic network.
It will also sell access to its network to large mobile operators for their own small cell transmitters, with revenues – including mobile advertising – to be shared with the local authorities.
The initial focus will be on crowded shopping areas.