Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and Westminster are the first to sign up to the scheme, which will see a series of ‘hotspots’ utilised to provide near-blanket broadband coverage across city centres.
BT has plans to announce a further six locations in the near future too. ‘This is only the beginning,’ says Steve Andrews, chief of converged communication services at the telecoms giant. ‘We are already negotiating with many other cities.’
For BT, Wireless City is ‘a test bed for wireless development’, adds Ryan Jarvis, the group’s director of mobile products and partnerships. The plan is for systems to be upgraded as evolving wireless technologies such as WiMax come to the fore.
The initiative has also seen BT team up with a number of local authorities to provide wireless broadband access, which will enable calls to be made at a landline rate and provide video and internet access over a range of mobile devices. The forthcoming wireless version of the BT Fusion, an intelligent mobile that switches calls to BT Broadband when appropriate, is one such device. Another is in development for corporate customers.
Wireless City is also intended to help local councils expand their public safety networks, through increased visibility over CCTV coverage and by providing wireless access for care workers and municipal staff including traffic wardens. Individual users will also be able to check train times, send email and plan trips to the cinema on the move. ‘This is the first step towards a future of rich, high-speed services enabled by new technology,’ Andrews concludes.