Universal Wi-Fi: Blue Sky or Pie in the Sky?
Virgin Media are set to trial a free Wi-Fi Hotspot service in London named the ‘Metro.’ The latest roll out comes as Virgin discovered there is large proportion of their network that is not utilised throughout the day whilst majority of people are out of their home. Virgin says they are meeting consumers’ needs by providing 3G accesses to people wherever they go in London. If the plan gets the go ahead they will be able to supply internet connection at the speed of half a megabit per second; whilst Virgin customers will benefit from a much faster service of 10mbps. With this bold demonstration of the possibility around Wi-Fi connectivity across the capital, will other ISPs such as BT and Talk Talk lose customers or be forced to follow suit?
This isn’t the first major roll out of Wi-Fi services in the UK, with food outlets such as McDonald’s and Starbucks offering free Wi-Fi not to mention the city of Birmingham! However when free Wi-Fi hits the capital will it spell the end of the line for paid internet services in the UK and will we follow parts of Europe and the US? With technology constantly evolving, such as smartphones and tablets, consumers are more frequently getting their online kicks on the move. With that in mind it does seem like an obvious move to offer free Wi-Fi services across major UK cities. Widespread free broadband would lead to more constantly connected consumers and therefore more opportunities for brands to market their products and a dramatic uplift in eCommerce payment led purchases.
Despite the obvious benefits to both consumer and brand, the current broadband and Wi-Fi technology available in the UK means that consumers are only hitting around 30% of the speed of hard line broadband in the home, which means that a great deal of digital content is not delivered optimally. Combine this with the obvious security risks which this type of service would bring means that this development might be less blue sky and more pie in the sky for the UK population, for the time being at least.
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