Cities sign up for wireless Web access

Technology workers in six major cities will be able to access high-speed Internet services while on the move, thanks to BT's "first key step" in giving the UK 'Wireless Cities.'

People in Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Westminster will see localised broadband installed in a series of Wi-Fi hotspots for 'always-on' connectivity.

Announcing the agreement, BT said the deal was the first stage in rolling out dedicated high bandwidth wireless networks, to eventually connect 12 major cities across the UK.

The first six were chosen because of an explicit commitment to the possibilities offered through BT's "latest technologies and applications" for use by public services, individuals and businesses.

Host areas were implied to benefit from the Wi-Fi access, BT hinted, because the technology can markedly boost public services, such as monitor traffic, health and public safety, besides offering weather forecasts and cinema times.

BT pointed to the the first stage of the Wi-Fi roll-out in Westminster, where the councils report residents feeling 'safer walking the streets at night' as a result of the capability to widen the public safety network.

Leisure and business applications, many developed by councils, will also be available to a wide range of devices, including the forthcoming Wi-Fi version of BT Fusion and a similar product currently being developed for corporate customers.

These handsets will use the wireless broadband network to make calls over broadband at landline rates and provide a rich media experience, such as video calling and access to online applications and services.

"Our networks will make sure customers are connected at all times, but all people will notice is how valuable the services are, such as knowing where to park, access to tourist information and public services," said Steve Andrews, chief executive of BT's Converged Communications Services.

"The Wireless City initiatives offer wide area wireless broadband access across metropolitan areas, enabling people to use the network on a range of devices for entertainment, education and communication, such as email, video and voice calls, even when they're on the move."

The company, which is working with Intel to develop the technology, added that business and councils had responded positively to only the "first batch of many wireless agreements" nationwide.

Figures from The Cloud, which operates 7,000 UK hotspots, show that 30 per cent of companies have deployed Wi-Fi in their offices, in addition to two million 'always on' homeowners.

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