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Birmingham Plans £100m Public Wi-Fi Network

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Birmingham City Council is lookingt for partners to build a wireless network on its lamp-posts

A notice in the Official Journal of the European Union has revealed Birmingham City Council’s interest in building a city-wide wireless network.

The council has invited potential partners to submit proposals for the six year project, which could cost up to £125 million, and says it wants to take the lead in finding “innovative solutions to encourage its citizens to be able to benefit from the digital revolution.”

Urban Infrastructure

Any successful partner would have to be prepared to make a significant investment in equipment, systems and services, but would also be able to make use of the city’s 230 tower blocks, 95,000 lamp posts and other urban assets.

The cost of the project is expected to be £100-125 million and potential suppliers have until 23 December to lodge a proposal.

The council believes that a joint-venture approach is likely to be the most suitable option and it wants any supplier to provide “A wholesale, open access digital wireless network which will enable increased broadband speeds compared to 3G, increased levels of accessibility to high speed mobile broadband services and a ubiquitous, high speed, innovative service and product proposition to help tackle digital exclusion.”

Last month, Nokia began  a free Wi-Fi trial in London, while The Cloud has launched an initiative  which offers 15 minutes of free surfing a day in the capital. The government has been rumoured to be preparing a free Wi-Fi network for the city in time for the 2012 Olympic Games to stop phone networks from going into meltdown, but plans to take wireless broadband to London’s underground network have stuttered to a halt.