More councils plan free Wifi access Lampposts become base-station sites for cellular providers

Clive Akass,
Personal Computer World
25 Feb 2006

Free wireless access services provided by local authorities are likely to proliferate over the next couple of years, according to a leading Gartner analyst.

Ian Keene, vice-president of research, said there were a number of reasons councils could justify the cost of providing access.

The networks could be used for surveillance systems, distributing public information, regeneration of run-down areas and messaging for emergency services.

Social-services applications were a ‘real winner’ because they attract central government funding. 'But the biggest push of all will come from politicians because they see votes in it,' Keene said.

He told a Netevents forum in Garmisch, Germany, that he knew of several local authorities that are considering the move.

But he said it was not clear at this stage whether Wimax, Wifi or some other technology would be most common in municipal networks.

Keene agreed that frequencies used by both Wimax and Wifi are poor at penetrating walls, so the free networks would do little to close the digital divide by offering access to poorer homes.

Some cities networks would result from public-private partnerships, he said.

In one case a council got a free network by allowing its ‘street furniture’ such as lampposts to be used for cellular phone base stations.

In fact the need for base-station sites has turned lampposts into something of a money spinner for councils, the forum was told.

Bath and the City of London have both recently announced plans for public Wifi access. In the US a mucipal mesh network has been set up at Cambridge, Mass. (see story at //www.pcw.co.uk/2150967 )

FYI from GRAM //www.nomasts.org.uk

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Masts Inside Your HOME, Tumours in Your Head: The Downsides of the Mobile/Wireless 'Revolution'
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