Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 January 2006, 14:52 GMT
Woman using laptop in a station
Wi-fi is spreading its wings beyond stations and cafes
A UK company that has created wireless hotspots in stations, coffee shops and hotels around the UK is planning to launch city-wide wi-fi this spring.
The Cloud will bring wireless broadband to nine cities including London, Manchester and Birmingham.
Hundreds of hotzones will be rolled out across the cities, giving access to the internet for anyone using a wi-fi enabled computer or mobile phone.
More cities are expected to be announced during 2006.
The first phase will see hotzones set up in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge and three London boroughs - Islington, Kensington and Camden.
It is expected that the new wireless internet network will reach more than 4 million people.
Rival phone networks
Each hotzone will turn broadband-speed internet into radio signals to allow people to surf the net, send e-mails, play online games and make cheap phone calls over wi-fi.
"Providing ubiquitous wireless broadband access, over a network that is available to millions of wi-fi devices, and will be available to the new generation of wi-fi phones, gaming devices and other applications will have a major impact on the way people communicate, work and play in city centres," said George Polk, chief executive of The Cloud.
The hotzones will rival existing mobile phone networks.
Around 25 mobile phone handsets currently have wi-fi chips installed. Pressing a button on the phone allows users to bypass their own mobile phone network to connect to the internet and make cheap broadband phone calls.
Initially the networks will be available to people using BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones and Nintendo WiFi but The Cloud hopes other service providers will want to join the party.
The wi-fi firm currently has around 6,000 hotspot locations throughout the UK, Sweden and Germany.
It recently launched a network in Canary Wharf which it claims to be Europe's largest wi-fi enabled financial area.
UK cities promised blanket Wi-Fi
January 03, 2006, 16:15 GMT
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The Cloud is planning to bring high-speed wireless Web access to eight UK cities and three London boroughs
Plans for a UK-wide Wi-Fi network have been unveiled that will give residents access to wireless broadband Internet from laptops, PDAs, games consoles and mobile phones.
The first phase of the project is due to be completed by March 2006 and will see citywide Wi-Fi hotspots rolled out in eight of the UK's biggest cities and three London boroughs.
Residents of Birmingham, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Oxford, along with the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Islington, will be the first to benefit from the wireless Internet coverage.
The networks are being built by European wireless provider The Cloud and will be open to any ISP wanting to offer services. Blanket wireless coverage will be provided in the cities through Wi-Fi equipment fitted on lampposts and street signs.
People wanting to use the wireless network will then have to pay one of the ISPs for access and revenues will be split between the Cloud, the local council and the ISPs.
More cities are expected to be announced later in the year and George Polk, chief executive of The Cloud, said the aim is to provide wireless coverage across all the UK's cities and major centres of population.
"Providing ubiquitous wireless broadband access, over a network that is available to millions of wi-fi devices, and will be available to the new generation of wi-fi phones, gaming devices, and other applications, will have a major impact on the way people communicate, work and play in city centres," said Polk in a statement.
The initiative has been backed by MP Derek Wyatt, head of the All-Party Internet Group. "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," said Wyatt.
Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June, 2005, 12:08 GMT 13:08 UK
Bard's home town goes wireless
Man in Tudor costume holding a PDA
The PDA provides a virtual guide to Shakespeare's home town
Visitors to Shakespeare's birthplace town of Stratford-upon-Avon can now get a virtual guide to show them around.
A personal digital assistant (PDA), hired for £8 a day, provides internet access, an interactive map and a guide to the tourist hotspots.
Local residents will also be able to take advantage of wireless hotspots that will be dotted around the Warwickshire town.
The Stratford Unplugged project is set to run initially for a year.
"It will give visitors a fresh view of this great town," said Stratford Unplugged director Tim Luft.
"Whilst known for our links with 'Ye Olde Worlde' we are constantly looking for ways to move the town forward and allow people to access the information they need, when they need it most," he said.
The wireless hotspots, provided by BT, will be installed in hotels, shops and local tourist attractions, giving complete connectivity throughout the town.
"Now all the world's a wi-fi stage as far as this town is concerned. We are sure that the many tourists who like to visit Stratford from across the globe will appreciate how much easier it will be to hit the literary hotspots using the latest technology as your guide," said Chris Clark, chief executive of BT Wireless Broadband.
The PDAs will be available for hire from the local Tourist Information Office or the Thistle Hotel from 29 June.