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Birmingham City Council poised to roll out 4G superfast broadband network

Kathleen Hall

Birmingham intends to roll out a 4G network to deliver superfast mobile broadband across the city.

Large areas of Birmingham currently have poor access to high speed broadband, with only half having access to download speeds of 15Mbps. Under the plans proposed by Digital Birmingham, suppliers will work with the council to create a city-wide 4G network. The plans propose using council property assets to house the transmission equipment.

Under the plans, Birmingham City Council will team up with a private sector partner. If the proposals go ahead, a network is expected to be fully operational by 2014.

Paul Tilsley, deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, said an increased dependence of technology is putting a huge strain on the city's wireless broadband networks.

"We are keen to get ahead of the curve - it isn't about the council becoming a mobile phone or network operator, it's about teaming up with organisations that have the know-how, so we can bring 4G to Birmingham as soon as possible along with a commercial benefit for the city.

"Doing this underlines our commitment to making Birmingham a leading digital city, and offers us a potential source of income in the current tough economic times," added Paul Tilsley.

Matthew Howett, analyst at Ovum, said collaborative partnerships between local councils and operators to deploy next generation broadband could be replicated in rural areas. "If anything it's councils in rural areas that have a greater need to get together with operators to roll out these sorts of networks. Mobile operators would deploy to places such as Birmingham without assistance anyway, but certainly plans like this encourage private sector investment."

Mobile broadband and the roll out of next generation mobile networks will make up the majority of investment, but councils need to give operators access to locations where they can install transmission equipment for blanket coverage roll-outs, he added.

The news follows the Birmingham Council's controversial plans to offshore 100 jobs to India as part of an HR and IT services joint venture with Capita. Trade union Unite, which represents many of the workers, has called for a halt to the plans.


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