Westminster Council widens Wi-Fi network

A pioneering public sector wireless network is being extended, and should eventually bring Wi-Fi to local residents

Westminster residents could soon get Wi-Fi access as part of Westminster City Council's plans to extend its wireless networking project. The council, which last year began deploying a high-speed wireless network to try and improve the delivery of public services to citizens, announced on Friday that it is now extending the network.

Plans for residential access to Wi-Fi hotspots are also in the pipeline, said a council spokeswoman on Friday.

"At the moment residents can't access the network but this is something that will happen and is something the council is planning to do," she revealed, adding that this access would not be free.

ZDNet UK reported in April 2004 that Westminster council was planning to extend its Wi-Fi network, after a pilot trial using just four cameras. Eighteen months later, that expansion is complete.

Until now, the wireless network covered just one part of Soho, but it is being extended to include all of Soho and two housing estates within Westminster, Lisson Green in Marylebone and Churchill Gardens in Pimlico.

Ten wireless CCTV cameras will be installed on each estate, attached to lamp posts.

As in the original Soho trial, they will be used to deter antisocial behaviour and alert council or emergency services to potential problems. There are no plans to install noise monitoring equipment in any residential area until further consultation has taken place.

In Soho, the Council will deploy another twenty wireless CCTV cameras in an attempt to ensure that visitors and residents in the heart of London remain safe. Because they are networked, the cameras can be monitored in real time by trained personnel who can then quickly respond to any criminal behaviour.

In January this next stage of the project will be assessed by the Council. If successful, the network could be rolled out across more of Westminster.

The project was first launched with a pilot scheme in 2003 with Intel and Cisco, using Wi-Fi to link a small number of CCTV cameras to a central network.

Back in 2004, council staff said they hoped to eventually use the network to keep council staff connected when out of the office, and to improve delivery of local government services such as bill payment, waste management, and parking.

Islington Council, in North London, has also embarked on a wireless project. It has installed a mile-long Wi-Fi network that gives free access to local residents and businesses.