Virgin Media considers 4G wi-fi boost

Femtocells to the rescue when it comes to wi-fi overload

December 5, 2011
Virgin Media UK

Virgin Media is looking to the future, and the future it sees is an ever more congested UK broadband network.

This isn’t surprising, given the huge rise in smartphones, tablets and other devices which are now online alongside the likes of computers and game consoles.

While Virgin Media – and BT – are currently rolling out super-fast broadband connections across the UK, the company is concerned that home wi-fi networks will increasingly feel the strain. Those with multiple devices connected will struggle to keep a consistent connection, no matter how fat their broadband pipe.

Hence a new idea from Virgin which the Guardian has highlighted – the humble femtocell which could help rescue wi-fi.

Both Virgin and BT are considering entering the bidding for the 4G spectrum auction alongside the big mobile network players, with Virgin wanting chunks of the spectrum to deploy femtocells.

These are miniature book-sized masts which can ensure a boosted wi-fi coverage around the home, or indeed bigger environments such as hotels.

Virgin Media’s strategy director Robert Samuelson told the Guardian: “As more pieces of equipment are going to use Wi-Fi and we get into video, there is a risk of the quality of service declining. It’s already happening in student halls of residence and hotels.”

Whether Virgin will put its money where its mouth is, we shall have to see. At any rate, the 4G auction is some way off yet, and indeed with network operators bickering over the rules and fairness issues, they don’t seem to be getting any closer.

It won’t be until 2013, and probably later in the year, that 4G actually begins to go live in the UK.


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