Virgin Media is planning to use its fibre network to create hundreds of public Wi-Fi hotspots across the UK.

The ISP told the Telegraph it wants to follow in the footsteps of US provider Cablevision, which joined forces with TimeWarner, in a $300m scheme to roll-out thousands of public Wi-Fi hotspots across America in areas where mobile networks struggle with 3G coverage.

"We have been inspired by what Cablevision has been able to do in New York and are actively exploring the possibility of creating a similar network here," said Kevin Baughan, Virgin's director of advanced technology

"It takes the sheer power of the cable broadband network and puts it where people need it."

The Wi-Fi hotspots would be created by placing routers in secure locations across the country and then connecting them to the Virgin's roadside fibre boxes. It is thought the Wi-Fi hotspots will offer speeds of 'up to' 5Mbps.

BT Openzone, which is one of the largest providers of public Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK, currently offers up to 8Mbps, by speeds vary depending on how close users are to the hotspots. BT also offers BTFON access, which provides speeds of 'up to' 0.5Mbps via the home broadband of 1.9m BT customers.

"Previous attempts were to fulfil a social objective. This is to solve a real problem," Baughan said.

"This isn't about building broad coverage, it's about giving you fast, predictable, access where you need it."

Virgin said the service would be free to its existing customers while non-Virgin customers would be charged on a pay-as-you-go- basis. Alternatively, council could opt to offer the service to their local community.

See also: Virgin campaigns for ISPs to reveal 'typical' speeds