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Birmingham to Blanket UK City Centre with Unlimited FREE WiFi Access

Monday, July 8th, 2013 (2:37 pm) - Score 1,935

The Birmingham City Council (BCC) will shortly (15th July 2013) vote on a new scheme to help improve broadband coverage in the city by rolling out an “unlimited” free wireless internet (wifi) hotspot service across “key parts of the city centre“.

Under the contract a chosen network operator would be allowed to make use of local city street furniture (e.g. lamp-posts) in order to “enhance 3G and roll out further 4G capacity to mobile broadband users“, as well as to deploy a new wifi service. The council would in turn hope to benefit from an income stream via the access rights to their street furniture.

James McKay, BCC Cabinet Member, said:

This project will dramatically accelerate mobile broadband investment in the city. In recent years, we have seen an exponential growth in demand for connectivity with smartphones and tablet computers becoming everyday items driving significant increases in the volume of data across mobile networks.

Offering free wifi in the city centre will help us bridge the digital divide, enabling more people to get online, while supporting economic growth and inward investment as Birmingham becomes a better place to do business.

By boosting 3G and 4G capacity in known areas of demand, this scheme would also lay technological foundations for the city for many years to come, underpinning our smart city aspirations.”

It’s anticipated that areas such as Victoria Square, New Street, Moor Street, High Street, St Philip’s Cathedral and the new Library of Birmingham would be among the first to get the new service. Apparently the preferred bidder’s identity will be announced “as soon as legally possible“.

Readers might recall that Birmingham was given state-aid approval to rollout an “ultra-fast” fibre optic based 80-100Mbps+ capable broadband ISP network last June 2012 (here), although this aspect was stalled by a legal challenge from Virgin Media and BT (here).

Since then a disagreement with the EU means that the government has had to suspend its urban infrastructure investment and turn it into connection vouchers instead (here), though the wifi element remains.

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