Plans for free wifi in city centre unveiled

By on 08/07/2013 in Cllr McKay, News

Free wifi access across key parts of the city centre forms part of a plan to improve broadband coverage in the city due before Birmingham City Council's Cabinet on July 15.

The Next Generation Wireless Connectivity Contract would see a wholesale broadband provider (WBP) given permission to use city street furniture (lamp-posts and CCTV columns) to enhance 3G and roll out further 4G capacity to mobile broadband users.

In return, the council would benefit from an income stream for the access rights to use the street furniture - while citizens and businesses would gain improved access to a multitude of online services ranging from social media, interactive gaming, online learning and educational opportunities and many of the City Council's digital services on the move.

Cllr James McKay

Cllr James McKay

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.

“In recent years, we have seen an exponential growth in demand for connectivity with smartphones and tablet computers becoming every day items driving significant increases in the volume of data across mobile networks.

“This project puts us in a prime position to meet this growing demand and ensures that Birmingham will be one of the best connected cities in the UK.

“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.”

The initial roll-out of the unlimited free wifi would see access made available at key locations across the city centre where people congregate outside, such as Victoria Square, New Street, Moor Street, High Street, St Philip's Cathedral and the new Library of Birmingham.

By taking a wholesale approach in developing this wireless infrastructure, the WBP will be able to work with other mobile network operators to enable them to improve coverage for their respective customers, in an easy, cost-effective manner rather than have to develop their own expensive networks.

Ends

Notes to editors

Exact details of the proposal cannot be made available at this stage as they are commercially confidential, but the preferred bidder's identity will be announced as soon as legally possible after Cabinet makes any decision on July 15.

For more media information contact Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621

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