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Belfast Plans to Blanket City with FREE Wireless Broadband Access

Monday, Jun 11th, 2012 (7:24 am) - Score 992

The Belfast City Council (BCC) will later today announce a new plan to blanket most of Belfast city (i.e. the capital of Northern Ireland, UK) in a free wireless internet access service for use by all residents and visitors.

Most of the money for this development looks set to come from the government’s Urban Broadband Fund (UBF), which in March 2012 awarded a potential funding range of between £6m to £13.7m from its £150m budget to the city (here).

Belfast was one of ten large UK cities to win the funding. The money, which needs to be matched by funds from the city council and private sector, is supposed to help make “ultrafast” fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ (Megabits per second) broadband ISP services available to at least 90% of city residents and businesses by 2015.

Crucially the funding will only work to upgrade broadband (fixed line and “city-wide” mobile) “coverage in areas where BT and Virgin Media will not go” or services “beyond what the [Private Sector] will provide”. A city-wide wifi network could stretch the meaning of this.

An article on the BBC states that the new wireless network will cover a five kilometre radius, stretching out from Belfast City Hall. But city-wide wifi networks have had a mixed history of success. Councils often struggle to make them commercially viable (e.g. Swindon), while ISPs sometimes grumble about the potential impact of a free service upon their existing commercial products.

So far such concerns haven’t stopped similar developments being planned for other cities around the UK. For example York, the City of London, Birmingham and a recently revived project in Swindon all seem to view city-wide wifi as a viable investment.

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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