The appropriately-named UK communications outfit The Cloud plans to deploy widespread wireless broadband networks in city centres throughout the UK.
The company claims that the move is the first major initiative to bring coverage to multiple cities simultaneously since mobile phone networks were built in the early 90s and will allow more than 4m people to connect to the Internet without wires.
The plan to have ‘clouds’ of wireless broadband internet access over the UK’s major centres of population will begin with nine city centre areas.
The first phase is to be complete by March 2006. Hundreds of WiFi hotzones will be rolled out in the city centres of Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool and the three London Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Islington. It is expected that more cities will also be announced throughout 2006.
Each WiFi hotzone will deliver broadband-speed internet that can be accessed by laptops, PDAs, handheld games consoles and WiFi-enabled mobile phones. People will be able to send emails, surf the Internet, access work networks, play games online, make cheap phone calls over WiFi and more from wherever they are within the city centre.
The Cloud’s networks are open to any service provider who would like to provide advanced wireless services to their customers. In some countries city networks have been built by a single service provider, who then have a monopoly on the provision of WiFi. The Cloud’s wholesale network approach means this will not happen. The new city networks will immediately be available to people using BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones, and Nintendo WiFi. The networks can also be quickly available to other companies such as T-Mobile, NTL/Virgin, BSkyB/EasyNet, TalkTalk, Sony, Vonage, iPass and other ISPs and network operators who may want to offer services to government, consumers and business customers.
George Polk, CEO of The Cloud said, “This is the first time anyone has brought wireless Internet access to the UK public on this scale. Providing ubiquitous wireless broadband access over a network that is available to millions of WiFi devices will have a major impact on the way people communicate, work and play in city centres.”
Derek Wyatt MP, Head of the All Party Internet Group, said, “This initiative is going to open up broadband speed internet access to a vast and varied number of people. The fact that The Cloud network allows people to choose their own service provider means as many as possible will be allowed access to the WiFi. Such a large-scale project is an exciting prospect for communications in the UK, allowing people to send emails, make cheap phone calls, surf the internet, do business and even play games online, wherever they are.”
The Cloud is no stranger to creating large metro WiFi zones, having executed a similar programme in Canary Wharf earlier this year to make it Europe’s largest WiFi-enabled financial area. In addition the company has WiFi-enabled Old Trafford, Royal Festival Hall and The British Library, as well as numerous airports, railway stations, hotels, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants.