Birmingham City Council has teamed up with Virgin Media Business and Global Reach Technology to provide free Wi-Fi throughout its city centre.
Councillor James McKay, cabinet member for a Green, Safe and Smart City, claimed earlier in the year that this step towards greater connectivity would help to improve investor interest in the area.
Wi-Fi access points have been placed around Birmingham city centre, which connects to Virgin Media Business's fibre-optic network to provide unrestricted Wi-Fi to all using the access ID “_Bham Free Wifi”.
The technology uses surrounding objects, such as CCTV poles and streetlamps, to boost frequencies, and can even be used by UK mobile operators to boost their mobile network capacity. There is speculation that mobile operators will be encouraged to inject money into the city to use these already established facilities, especially when 4G services are launched.
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McKay said: “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."
The move could signal a step towards becoming a smart city, such as Santander in Spain, which uses sensors connected to fibre networks to record data about the city and its surroundings. It then allows citizens the use of applications to allow them to process the information how they see fit. For example, it can be used to look up the movements of local buses – something Birmingham is suggesting its free Wi-Fi can be used for.