Virgin Media May Buy/Build A Public WiFi Network

UK telco and TV platform Virgin Media (NSDQ: VMED) could ape its rival BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) by investing in a public WiFi network, so that its subscribers can consume their TV bouquet on the go.
“We’ll continue to explore the metro wireless opportunity which could give customers (the ability to watch content) outside the home,” CEO Neil Berkett told analysts Wednesday lunchtime, saying Virgin had been trialling the technology in Kent.
In January, BSkyB bought The Cloud, Europe’s largest public WiFi network with 50,000 hotspots, which had been O2’s WiFi partner of choice, to gain an out-of-home network over which its TV subscribers will ultimately watch Sky content using tablets and smartphones at locations like bars and hotels. BSkyB calls it “Sky Anywhere”.
“Our customers will be able to use many different mobile and fixed devices to consume their content,” Berkett said, albeit cryptically.
Despite owning its own virtual GSM mobile network since its forebear NTL swallowed Virgin Mobile (NYSE: VM) UK, mobile remains an elusive piece of the quad-play puzzle for Virgin Media, which also provides broadband, TV and fixed-line phone…

The company finally now wants and needs to get serious about leveraging mobile in its cross-sell. But its delivery of VOD to its smartphone customers is nascent and rudimentary.
Virgin Media will likely offer the TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO) iPad app for subscribers to Virgin’s high-spec new TiVo box, for which 65,000 pre-registrations were received and which is now being offered to new customers but for which loyal existing customers must wait until May.
That box could be a step-change, and Virgin continues touting its fixed-line cable network advantage – many customers now take 30Mbps and the company today announced a flashy, phenomenal 1.5Gbps trial in Shoreditch, London.
Perhaps a hedge against the possibility of slow growth for its GSM network, could an out-of-home WiFi network be the next big network Virgin looks toward? Right now, it looks like just an idea – in company slide decks today, there is, quite literally, a question mark over the possibility. If it does not buy or build its own, Virgin may still have the option of riding an existing WiFi network, like BTOpenzone.
In earnings, Virgin Media reported 5.7 percent higher Q1 revenue, with average monthly cable customer spend rising 2.6 percent to £46.16 thanks to 1.2 percent more cable customers being added since last year.