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Council teams up with BT to provide free wi-fi in Leicester city centre

Monday, February 8th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Shoppers and visitors to Leicester will soon be able to get online wherever they are thanks to the arrival of free wi-fi in some of the most popular areas of the city centre.

Leicester City Council is working with BT to establish a free wi-fi zone in the centre of the city, including the Clock Tower, Jubilee Square and outside the Richard III centre on St Martins.

The scheme, which is not costing the city council anything, is set to be available this spring, with planning and survey work already underway.

It is hoped that the free wi-fi will promote digital access and help people find out more about the city.

Deputy City Mayor Cllr Rory Palmer said: “We already have free wi-fi in our libraries and we know how popular wi-fi hotspots in city centre coffee shops and other venues are.

“We’d like to be able to extend this offer so that people can get online even more easily.

“Free wi-fi will also support our plans to promote economic growth in the city as well as being an essential infrastructure for a modern connected city.”

Access to the Leicester City Council wi-fi network, which is part of around 5m BT hotspots across the UK, will be free and unlimited to everyone.

BT, which will build and manage the free wi-fi network for 10 years, has already introduced wi-fi into city centres including Cardiff, Gloucester, Glasgow, Nottingham and Newcastle.

Owen Moody, BT's regional manager for the East Midlands, said: "Connecting people is at the heart of what we do and a great deal of work has already taken place with the city council.

“Being able to use technology on the move is more important than ever and we’re confident the new wi-fi network will make a big difference to people in Leicester.”

'A smarter city'

Visitors to the city centre can already use their smartphones to scan QR codes on information boards around the city which give them more information about Leicester’s history and heritage.

It is hoped the deal, using the existing CCTV network to deliver wi-fi, will also attract improved mobile phone coverage as mobile operators will be able to roll out 4G technology in the city centre more easily.

Brian Jackson, head of sales for BT Redcare Surveillance, said: “Most UK towns and cities have invested in CCTV and video surveillance with cameras in places where lots of people pass.

“So it’s ideal for supporting a public wi-fi network.

“Our approach is simple, but effective — we’ll help customers get the most out of their existing CCTV systems, overlay a public wi-fi network and provide the capability for improved mobile services. All building towards a smarter city.”

In October, Virgin Media announced that it was using ‘smart pavement’ technology to deliver wi-fi under people’s feet in Chesham, Buckinghamshire.

The service, which uses a combination of Virgin’s street cabinets and submerged access points connected directly to its fibre network, provides free unlimited internet access in and around the town’s high street.

It can provide speeds up to 166Mbps – allowing users to download a TV show in around 30 seconds – and covers parts of Chesham’s 36-acre Lowndes Park as well as the high street itself.

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