Cardiff City Council today announced it will partner with BT to provide a free Wi-Fi network in the capital.
The roll-out will initially focus on the busiest tourism, retail and leisure facilities in Cardiff to serve the city's 1.4 million residents, several hundred businesses and annual 19 million visitors.
Phase one will bring connectivity to Gorsedd Gardens Road (covering the area around City Hall), Queen Street, The Hayes, the High Street and St Mary Street. It will then be extended in its second phase to the Cardiff Bay area, with all the work due to complete by Spring 2014.
Cabinet member for finance and economic development, Russell Goodway, said: “These wireless technologies will add to the ongoing investment in fibre broadband that BT is making across Cardiff and give the city a real competitive edge when it comes to attracting new visitors and businesses.”
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The project is part of the Super Connected Cities scheme announced by the Chancellor in his 2012 budget. Cardiff was awarded £7m of the £100m fund put forward by central government to build ultrafast fixed broadband access and large areas of public wireless connectivity across the city.
However, BT told us the deal is a concession agreement. This means BT will pay for the installation and manage the network for 10 years in exchange for exclusive access to lamp posts and other street furniture, rather than the council paying it for the work.
BT will then offer the network on a wholesale basis to mobile operators who may wish to use it to boost 3G and 4G signals across the city.
While the network is said to be free for the public, there is a timeframe on this if you are not a BT customer.
“Initially, access to the Cardiff Council Wi-Fi service will be free and unlimited to all, while BT Broadband customers will always be able to get free, unlimited usage,” read a statement from BT.
We asked the firm how long access would remain free and it directed us to the council. We are still awaiting a response from their spokesman.