Free Birmingham Wi-Fi Network to Go Live In September

Birmingham © Shutterstock Feraru Nicolae

Virgin Media Business to provide free Wi-Fi as part of small cell deployment

Around one million people in Birmingham are set to benefit from a free and unlimited public Wi-Fi network in the city centre after the local council agreed a deal with Virgin Media Business.

The Free Birmingham Wi-Fi network will launch in September, with the City Council claiming it will boost connectivity, stimulate economic growth and provide social benefits to its citizens.

Areas set to benefit include Victoria Square, New Street, Moor Street, High Street, St Philip’s Cathedral and the plaza in front of the new Library of Birmingham.

Small cell deployment

Birmingham city centre © Shutterstock David HughesVirgin Media Business will deploy a mixture of 3G and 4G small cells on Birmingham’s street furniture, such as tower blocks and lampposts, and will allow mobile operators to access its network to improve coverage and capacity as the demand for mobile data continues to grow.

The company will hold joint trials of the technology in the coming months ahead of the first commercial deployment of small cells in 2014.

“This project will dramatically accelerate mobile broadband investment in the city,” said Councillor James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, Birmingham City Council. “It will bring enhanced high-speed mobile broadband coverage for more people, and the free Virgin Media Business WiFi zone in the city centre will help bridge the digital divide for those who are otherwise unable to access such services.

“Boosted 3G and 4G coverage will help businesses of all sizes be as competitive as possible in the fiercely competitive global marketplace.”

Free Birmingham Wi-Fi

Birmingham City Council has been interested in building a city-wide wireless network for some time, having invited potential suppliers to submit proposals as long ago as November 2011.

Its plans to build a superfast broadband network were thwarted last year after Virgin Media opposed the decision to award the Council £10 million in state funding, but it appears as though the two parties are more than capable of working together.

Virgin Media Business has agreed a similar deal with Leeds and Bradford as part of the government’s super connected cities initiative, installing small cells on street furniture to provide additional capacity for mobile operators, while providing locals with a free Wi-Fi network.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen consumer demand for mobile data skyrocket as smartphone and tablet use has really come to the fore,” said Kevin Baughan, director of wireless, Virgin Media Business. “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.”

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