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Virgin Media plans to boost public Wi-Fi coverage – but at what cost?

Virgin Media is going to bolster its public Wi-Fi offerings across the UK, in a bid to better compete with rival BT's many public wireless hotspots.

Virgin plans to boost its Wi-Fi coverage on two fronts, the first being (as the Telegraph reports) turning its street cabinets into Wi-Fi hotspots which customers can use when they're out and about (for free, of course). That’s clearly a good idea.

The other move is more controversial, and involves turning customer's home routers into Wi-Fi hotspots which can be used by other Virgin subscribers when they're out and about.

In other words, this will involve some sort of guest (or public) network going live on the router, separate from the user's private connection, which the company assures will remain secure.

Such a 'crowdsurfing' scheme, as it were, will inevitably lead to concerns over what happens if public users start downloading various dodgy files of one sort or another over someone else's network – and what the repercussions could potentially be for the perfectly innocent and unknowing router owner.

The sweetener for Virgin customers will be a free boost in broadband speed to help cope with any bandwidth issues caused by others using the connection, though again, this throws up question marks of its own. For example, in cities where multiple people might hop on another customer’s router, the bandwidth drain could be much more – but presumably some sort of limit would be put in place as to how much public usage could slow the connection down by.

In short, this is a nifty idea for expansion on the one hand, and will certainly help Virgin subscribers get online when they are away from home, but there are still plenty of questions which need to be answered as to exactly how this will all be implemented.

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