Thursday, May 25, 2006

BT plans wireless cities

Service, due next spring will use both Wi-Fi and fixed-mobile convergence

Martin Courtney, IT Week 19 May 2006

BT has announced plans to build “wireless cities” that provide workers with Wi-Fi voice and data connections via dual-mode handsets and mobile devices within urban environments.

The new service, due in February next year, will encompass existing Openzone Wi-Fi hotspots at travel hubs and other public places, and BT’s forthcoming Wi-Fi-based fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) services in homes and offices. This capability will be supplemented by outdoor city centre Wi-Fi coverage in 12 of the UK’s major cities.

The first six cities to get the service will be Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, Cardiff and London, where local councils plan to use it to deliver public information and video applications such as CCTV security surveillance.

Chief of BT wireless broadband Ryan Jarvis said that users will be able to enjoy seamless Wi-Fi-to-GSM and Wi-Fi-to-Wi-Fi call handover by the time the service is commercially available. Pricing will be key to the network’s success, and BT hopes that its roaming agreement with Vodafone will help to deliver competitive tariffs and easy-to-understand bills.

“Pricing will be an extension of the Fusion or equivalent enterprise FMC product,” Jarvis commented. “There will be different rates between Wi-Fi and cellular mode but we are not yet announcing what that rate will be. Clearly, it is in our interest to make billing a simple and positive experience.”

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