Smart sidewalks bring free Wi-Fi to U.K. streets

Virgin Media's Smart Pavement keeps you connected on the go. Photo: Virgin

Virgin Media’s Smart Pavement keeps you connected on the go. Photo: Virgin

You’ll never be without an Internet connection in U.K. towns and cities in the future, thanks to Wi-Fi-emitting sidewalks.

Chesham in Buckinghamshire has become the first town to deliver Wi-Fi at speeds of up to 166 Mbps, seven times the average broadband speed in the U.K., through “Smart Pavements” courtesy of broadband provider Virgin Media.

This is the first time public Wi-Fi has been installed “under your feet,” Virgin says, and it’s available throughout the center of Chesham and parts of Lowndes Park, the 36-acre park space. All 21,000 residents and businesses in the area can take advantage of it.

Virgin has submerged access points underground that are powered by its DOCSIS 3 technology. Each one is covered by a specially developed resign that’s waterproof and doesn’t interfere with the Wi-Fi signals, where are capable of reaching up to 80 meters.

Thanks to the super-fast speeds, users can download an episode of their favorite TV show in less than 35 seconds, Virgin says.

A glimpse at the magic. Photo: Virgin

A glimpse at the magic. Photo: Virgin

While the pilot is being carried out, anyone in Cheshire can use the Wi-Fi service for free; you don’t have to be a Virgin customer. Simply download the Virgin Media WiFi app on your Android or iOS device to connect to your nearest access point and begin browsing the web.

Virgin expects data usage in the U.K. to be 10,000% higher by 2025 if it continues to grow at the current rate of 60% every year, so the company is investing heavily in its broadband network to meet that demand.

There’s no word on when or where Smart Pavements will show up next.