Free network is now live in parts of Birmingham while small cell deployment will eventually help operators
A free and unlimited public Wi-Fi network has gone live in parts of Birmingham City centre and will eventually provide access to more than one million people in the area, who can connect to the ‘_Bham Free WiFi’ hotspot from today.
The Virgin Media Business-powered network is currently available around Victoria Square and Moore Street, and will be extended to Navigation Street, High Street, Broad Street, Bennetts Hill and the area around the Cathedral in the coming weeks, providing 2.5 square miles of coverage.
Access points have been mounted onto lampposts and other street furniture, then connected to Virgin’s fibre optic network. The company is also deploying 3G and 4G small cells in the city, with plans to allow mobile operators access its network to improve coverage and capacity as the demand for mobile data continues to grow.
Super connected city
“This exciting new technology has the potential to supercharge people’s internet services with a capacity to match the growing number of smart devices,” commented Duncan Higgins, director of marketing at Virgin Media Business. “Birmingham is a prototype of the super-powered, connected city, which is not only offering free internet services to all, but also accelerating a revolution in the mobile broadband experience.”
The City Council says the network will boost connectivity, stimulate economic growth and provide social benefits to its residents.
“We’re delighted to be able to offer this unrivalled connectivity in some the best-loved spaces in the city, particularly as more visitors arrive in the coming weeks to enjoy the Frankfurt Christmas Market and other festive celebrations,” added Councillor James McKay, cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, Birmingham City Council.
“This announcement builds on our connectivity plans for the city which aim to ensure that our citizens and businesses have access to the highest quality and affordable internet services, and establishes Birmingham as the best connected city in the UK.”
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 way back in 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 add capacity for mobile operators, while providing locals with a free Wi-Fi network.
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