The UK’s first ‘smart pavement’ has been switched on today in Chesham high street, Buckinghamshire, providing a free wireless broadband connection to some 21,000 local residents.
The pilot scheme from Chiltern District Council and Virgin Media uses WiFi hubs, protected by waterproof resin covers, embedded under the pavement and in bollards and traffic lights, capable of beaming wireless internet to a distance of 80 metres.
The hubs connect directly to Virgin Media’s fibre network and can provide speeds of up to 166Mbps, with users able to connect by selecting Virgin Media WiFi within the WiFi settings on their device.
A spokesman for Virgin Media said it is discussing the smart pavement technology with two other councils, adding that the pilot covers Chesham town centre and parts of Lowndes Park – Chesham’s 36 acre park space.
Gregor McNeil, managing director of consumer at Virgin Media, said: ‘Not only is this the first time we’ve built metropolitan WiFi directly from our street cabinets, it is also the UK’s first deployment of a WiFi connected pavement. It is literally public WiFi 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.’
Cllr Fred Wilson, Chiltern District Council’s cabinet member for customer services and Chesham Town Councillor, said: ‘I am delighted that we’ve been able to bring a UK first to Chesham with Virgin Media’s ultrafast WiFi, helping local people and businesses get online. Efficient connectivity is pivotal to running businesses today and I am proud we are part of a project which is crossing new boundaries.’
Smart pavement facts:
· Local people can download an episode of Coronation Street, Strictly Come Dancing or Gogglebox at the Bus Stop with a download speed of less than 35 seconds assuming a file size of 634Mb
· Rainproof access points use a mixture of the latest tech including fibre optic cabling and superior DOCSIS 3 technology.
· Out-of-home WiFi can save users money on their mobile phone bills by reducing the amount of mobile data they us when out and about in town.