BT expands Wireless Cities

The telco is to offer outdoor Wi-Fi connectivity across 15 town centres as it reveals three more locations that will soon benefit
Written by Richard Thurston, Contributor

BT has expanded its Wireless Cities programme, which provides Wi-Fi connectivity in town centres across the UK.

Speaking at an event organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology on Tuesday, the telco's director of wireless broadband, David Hughes, said that it has expanded the programme to include Manchester, Belfast and the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

BT had already said it was installing Wi-Fi in Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Nottingham, Portsmouth, Cardiff, Sheffield, Bristol and London's City of Westminster.

The telco's Wireless Cities initiative aims to install Wi-Fi connectivity in large outdoor urban areas. Networks are created by installing a large number of access points on street furniture such as lampposts and phone boxes. Access points are linked to the internet via a point-to-point link or meshed backhaul.

BT's city networks are in a variety of stages, from pilot phase to fully up-and-running. Users need a subscription with BT, or one of its partners, to access the connections. Tariffs include £6 for one hour and £25 per month.

Widespread rollout would help BT sell its converged fixed/mobile proposition, which is called Fusion.

Fusion allows users to make mobile calls over both Wi-Fi and GSM from the same device. The advantage to users is that Wi-Fi calls are cheaper than GSM calls, although incoming calls are charged the full mobile rate regardless of how the mobile is connected. BT already offers Fusion to small businesses, but its larger-scale service for corporates is still only in test phase.

Hughes refused to give any guidance on when the service will be launched, nor did he reveal which handsets will be needed.  Motorola and HTC devices have been used on its test sites.

Several other telecoms companies are rolling out outdoor Wi-Fi networks, most notably The Cloud. Pipex is rolling out competing networks using Wimax technology, which is fundamentally similar to Wi-Fi but offers far larger cell sizes.

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