West Midlands council tenants get free web access via electrical power lines

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West Midlands council tenants get free web access via electrical power lines

Antony Savvas

West Midlands residents are to get free or subsidised web access via power lines.

Solihull Community Housing is providing the access to residents via electrical plug sockets. The residents include the long term unemployed, low paid workers, single parent families with young children and the disabled.

The scheme will also create a wireless hotspot area which Solihull Metropolitan Council hopes will attract local businesses to a part of north Solihull designated a deprived area.

Solihull Community Housing (SCH) manages 11,000 council homes on behalf of the council. It is implementing the technology in partnerhip with CI-Net, a specialist in wide area networking (WAN).

SCH plans to provide bandwidth to the buildings via CI-Net's RedKite wireless connectivity service, which uses pre-Wimax radio signals to deliver high-speed, symmetrical broadband without physical telecoms lines.

The RedKite wireless radio signal will be transferred to the buildings' electrical power lines to enable internet access through electric sockets in tenants' homes.

"One of our technical challenges was finding a low-cost, low-maintenance, reliable way of providing internet connectivity," said Chris Deery, head of IT at SCH. "We wanted to minimise the civil engineering work required to deliver broadband to the multi-storey buildings, as well avoid causing disruption to individual tenants during implementation.

"We also wanted a solution with the ability to expand over time so we could start with one building and roll it out to more tenants in future."

SCH is receiving council funding for its initiative, as well as applying for funding from the European Regional Development Fund to enable it to extend the service.

The organisation plans to start providing the service next month.

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