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Virgin Media using 'wi-fi under your feet' to get high street online

Thursday, October 15th 2015 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Residents, businesses and visitors in a Buckinghamshire town can now get online for free when they're out and about thanks to a new wi-fi service under their feet.

Chesham has teamed up with Virgin Media to create the UK’s first wi-fi pavement – providing unlimited internet access in and around the town’s high street.

Virgin Media is delivering wi-fi using a combination of its street cabinets and ‘smart pavement’ technology – submerged access points connected directly to its fibre network.

The service can provide speeds up to 166Mbps – allowing users to download a TV show in around 30 seconds – and covers parts of Chesham’s 36-acre Lowndes Park as well as the high street itself.

All users have to do is select ‘Virgin Media WiFi’ within the wi-fi settings on their device.

Virgin Media said the scheme is the first in a series of initiatives aimed at delivering better out-of-home connectivity and runs alongside its £3m Project Lightning programme, which is connecting 4m more UK premises to ultrafast broadband.

The provider said it chose to work with “innovative” Chiltern District Council to pilot Chesham's smart wi-fi pavement as the town is demographically representative of the UK population and of a size that allows a quick deployment of services.

Gregor McNeil, Virgin’s managing director of consumer, said: “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 wi-fi connected pavement. 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.”

Isobel Darby, leader of Chiltern District Council, said: “It’s been a privilege to be part of this pilot and exciting for one of our communities to be involved in this pioneering work, which has the potential to change the way individuals and businesses access and use wi-fi in the future.”

As well as providing ultrafast wi-fi for use by any of Chesham’s 21,000 residents, Virgin’s fibre network has the potential to be extended to connect individual premises in the town.

Residents and businesses can register their interest in the scheme at the Virgin Media website.

Councillor Fred Wilson of Chiltern District Council is pictured with one of Virgin Media's new submerged access points in Chesham.

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