Virgin teams up with council for wifi scheme

Birmingham City Council and Virgin Media Business are set to launch free public wifi across key parts of the city centre after Birmingham’s wireless concession was awarded to Virgin Media Business as part of a plan to boost connectivity across the area, stimulating growth and tackling digital inclusion for over a million citizens.

The wifi service will roll out for citizens and visitors to Birmingham from September and will be completely free of charge. There will be no usage limits so people can use the service for as long as they need to and will support high bandwidth services like video streaming or online gaming.

Some of the initial areas to benefit from this high performance wifi service include: Victoria Square, New Street, Moor Street, High Street, St Philip’s Cathedral and the plaza in front of the new Library of Birmingham.

The concession will also allow Virgin Media Business to offer their ground-breaking hosting service to mobile operators so that they will be able to use small cells in order to supercharge their wireless networks.

Small cells are miniature base stations that allow mobile operators to precisely target where additional coverage and capacity is required. By combining access to the city’s street columns with Virgin Media Business extensive fibre network, Birmingham will be ready to lead in the rollout of the latest wireless technologies.

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city at Birmingham City Council, said: “This project will dramatically accelerate mobile broadband investment in the city.

“It will bring enhanced high-speed mobile broadband coverage for more people, and the free Virgin Media Business Wi-Fi zone in the city centre will help bridge the digital divide for those who are otherwise unable to access such services.

“Historically, Birmingham is known as the city of a thousand trades, and through the Smart City agenda led by Digital Birmingham, we are keen to embrace modern technologies to encourage enterprise and innovation. Boosted 3G and 4G coverage will help businesses of all sizes be as competitive as possible in the fiercely competitive global marketplace.”

As demand for mobile broadband continues to grow over the coming years, mobile operators will be able to plug into the Virgin Media Business hosting service in order to provide the extra coverage and capacity that their customers will require.

Virgin Media Business plans to start its first UK joint trials of the new small cell technology with mobile operators in the coming months in order to prepare the way for the first commercial deployment of small cells which are expected to start in 2014.

Kevin Baughan, director of wireless, Virgin Media Business, said: “Over the past few years we’ve seen consumer demand for mobile data sky rocket as smartphone and tablet use has really come to the fore. By enabling the deployment of small cell technologies, we’re transforming the mobile broadband experience and ensuring that Birmingham stays on the leading edge of digital connectivity.

“This means that residents, visitors and businesses will gain access to a superfast mobile services and an unlimited free wifi service in the city centre for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’re very proud to be a key part in meeting the digital goals and aspirations of Birmingham City Council.”

ENDS

Note to editors

For a picture from the launch, available for media use, please visit the Birminghamnewsroom Flickr feed

Media Contacts

John Brown, Speed Communications – 020 7842 3273, john.brown@speedcomms.com

Sara Doggett, Virgin Media Business – 07813 674230, sara.doggett@virginmedia.co.uk

Kris Kowalewski, Birmingham City Council – 0121 303 3621, kris.kowalewski@birmingham.gov.uk

About Virgin Media Business

Virgin Media Business is the largest business-to-business Virgin brand and part of the Virgin Media group, the UK’s first provider of all four broadband, TV, mobile phone and home phone services. The division prides itself on delivering innovative, high quality solutions that break down the barriers facing UK organisations today.

Businesses and public sector organisations around the country are using the Virgin Media Business network and skilled service teams to deliver far more than just high speed connectivity.

Staff are located at 40 offices across the country, meaning Virgin Media Business really is closer to its customers. Organisations working with Virgin Media Business include Knight Frank, Telefonica, London Grid for Learning, Hampshire Fire and Rescue and Cambridge County Council.

It has the UK’s only nationwide fibre optic network, carrying 35 per cent of all business broadband traffic and is already able to reach 85 per cent of businesses in the UK.

About Digital Birmingham

Digital Birmingham was established in 2006 to ensure that the benefits of digital technologies are available to all people, business and sectors in the city. Our programme of work has been focused on developing the city’s digital infrastructure and influencing digital investment in services. This has been pivotal in establishing Birmingham as a leading digital city and in doing so accelerating Birmingham’s economy and supporting greater social inclusion and quality of life.  It is now taking an early lead to pioneer Birmingham’s transition to a global Smart City that will maximise the use of the city’s digital investments and assets to facilitate sustainable social and economic innovation for a better way of life.

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