Somerset's wireless data network will save £1.6m



Mike Simons

Somerset County Council is installing one of the UK's biggest wireless wide area data networks, aimed at saving the council...



Mike Simons

Somerset County Council is installing one of the UK's biggest wireless wide area data networks, aimed at saving the council £1.6m over the next five years.

The council wants to connect more than 100 local buildings as part of its SomerNet project, and three quarters of the links will use wireless technology.

Cable & Wireless will install the £4.3m system, and claims the solution could save the council up to £1.6m over five years, in comparison to a conventional land-line network.

"We had a specific set of problems to overcome," said Vic Freir, Somerset's IT Officer. "We are rural. The county is bandwidth challenged. There is little competition between suppliers in the data field, which is led by off-the-shelf BT prices.

"We wanted a proven solution that was scalable, reliable, secure and which minimised environmental impact. This fits our criteria."

The network will link council buildings, libraries and schools, and could be extended to health and hospital trusts, further education establishments and other public sector agencies.

Cable & Wireless, with sub-contractor Wireless Lans, will install licensed radio-based services offering high bandwidth links between the four sites at Taunton, Yeovil, Frome and Bridgwater. This core will provide a switched 34mbps ATM framework for delivering communications and applications.

Discrete receivers will be installed on each of the 76 buildings to be linked using unlicensed radio technology, creating 10mbps connections to the core. The other 25 sites where line of sight connection are impractical will use 2mbps leased lines.

The roll-out, which will support converged voice, video and data services to the desktop, should be complete by June.

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