The UK’s first smart pavement that beams superfast Wi-Fi to urban users is being tested in Chesham.
The pavement, developed by Virgin Media, provides connectivity via submerged access points linked directly to Virgin’s street cabinets, which are connected to the 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.
“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,” said Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media.
“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.”
Virgin Media chose Chesham to pilot the technology as the town is representative of UK population and with 21,000 residents about the right size to allow quick deployment of services across the whole town.
The ultrafast smart pavement Wi-Fi covers Chesham’s high street and parts of the 36-acre Lowndes Park.
Peak download speeds can be achieved at up to 80m away from Virgin's street cabinets.
"I am delighted that we’ve been able to bring a UK first to Chesham with Virgin Media’s ultrafast Wi-Fi, helping local people and businesses get online,” said Cllr Fred Wilson, Chiltern District Council’s Cabinet member for customer services and Chesham town councillor, who helped the project off the ground.
“Efficient connectivity is pivotal to running businesses today and I am proud we are part of a project which is crossing new boundaries.”
First in a series of initiatives to deliver better out-of-home connectivity, Virgin Media’s smart pavement Wi-Fi will be available to all residents and businesses in Chesham. Virgin Media mobile customers with Android devices will be able to access it through the company's Wi-Fi Buddy app.
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 per cent every year and expects to see a 10,000 per cent increase by 2025.