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UK Town Residents to Enjoy a Wi-Fi Enabled Pavement

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Posted October 19, 2015

Virgin Media (VM), a telecommunications company that provides broadband, TV, cell phone and home phone services in the UK, is out to make a name for itself by offering unlimited Wi-Fi access to the residents and businesses of Chesham through a novelty “smart” pavement.

Strolling down the main street of Chesham, local inhabitants will soon be able to tap into an ultrafast WiFi service, courtesy of a new initiative – called Smart WiFi Pavement – by Virgin Media and the Chiltern District Council that allows people, as well as commercial establishments, to use wireless connectivity right on the pavement. Image credit: Nigel Cox via geograph.org.uk, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Strolling down the main street of Chesham, local inhabitants will soon be able to tap into an ultrafast WiFi service, courtesy of a new initiative – called Smart WiFi Pavement – by Virgin Media and the Chiltern District Council that allows people, as well as commercial establishments, to use wireless connectivity right on the pavement. Image credit: Nigel Cox via geograph.org.uk, CC BY-SA 2.0.

The initiative, appropriately called Smart WiFi Pavement, will allow VM customers to “streetsurf” the web on their Android devices by simply choosing Virgin Media WiFi in the connectivity tab and then activating the WiFi Buddy app.

“Chiltern District Council and Virgin Media have joined forces to blanket Chesham’s high street with superfast WiFi. The unlimited WiFi service is available to residents, businesses and visitors passing through the centre of Chesham. The service even covers parts of Lowndes Park – Chesham’s 36 acre park space,” said VM in a press release.

Access to the service, said to be seven times faster than the average UK broadband, will be available to all 21,000 of the town residents, and commercial establishments.

The specialised pavement will provide connectivity via submerged access points linked directly to Virgin’s street cabinets, which are connected to a fibre-optic network. “The pavement provides download speeds of up to 166Mbit/s, allowing users to download a file of about 634MB, equivalent to one episode of Coronation Street, in about 35 seconds,” said Tereza Pultranova, writing for the E&T magazine.

Peak speeds can be achieved at up to 80 km away from the street cabinets.

Said access points will be concealed under manhole covers, made from a specially-designed resin that allows radio signals to pass through it, as well as other “street furniture” such as lamp posts.

“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,” said Gregor McNeil, the Managing Director of Consumer at Virgin Media.

The stated reason for choosing Chesham, rather than a larger city like Birmingham or London, as the pilot site is the civil-minded and progressive local government. The town is also representative of the UK population, and about the right size to allow for quick deployment of services across the whole territory.

If the initiative proves a success, VM plans to expand its operations elsewhere. “We want to build more networks like this across the UK and encourage more forward thinking councils just like Chesham to get in tough,” said McNeil.

Virgin Media is currently investing £3bn into developing a new network that will provide ultrafast broadband speeds to four million more homes and businesses across the UK.

The provider said that data usage on its network has been growing by 60 percent every year, and expects to see a 10,000 percent increase by 2025.

Sources: techxplore.com, eandt.theiet.org.

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