Thursday, June 15, 2006

Hotzone boost for city web users/Cardiff

Tuesday, 6 June 2006, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Hotzone boost for city web users

More people will be able to exchange information on the move]

Cardiff will boost its status as Wales' wi-fi capital by extending its wireless internet coverage next year, say BT.

In 2004 the city became the first in the UK to offer broadband access to the web without cables in 'hotspots' around the centre and Cardiff Bay.

After a deal between BT and Cardiff Council, coverage will be extended from the inner city by February 2007.

But Cardiff University, which will be in the new 'hotzone' is launching a free service for staff and students.

BT's Wireless City initiative will make a four sq km area (1.6 sq miles) a wireless 'hotzone', with signals carried by antennas attached to buildings and street furniture.

Hotzones cover a wider area than so-called hotspots, and the network for people with suitable equipment will link more buildings.

New services will include wireless CCTV.

Covering sporting events at the Millennium Stadium is so much easier now.
Photographer Steve Pope

Ann Beynon, BT director Wales, said: "The Wireless City initiative offers wide area wireless broadband access across the city, enabling people to use the network on a range of devices for entertainment, education and communication, such as e-mail, video and voice calls, even when they're on the move."

City councillor Mark Stevens said: "BT has come forward with plans to invest further in creating a robust network in Cardiff which should be encouraged."


South Wales-based sports and PR photographer Steve Pope is among those who already benefit from the city's wi-fi service.

"Covering sporting events at the Millennium Stadium is so much easier now," said Mr Pope.

"Whereas before you had to dial up and watch each photograph being sent slowly over the internet, now you can take your pictures and within minutes they can be circulating worldwide."

Cardiff University, based at Cathays Park, will fall within the widened BT wi-fi zone, but university spokesman Tom Wiersma said they were developing their own free wireless network.

"Cost is an issue," Mr Wiersma said. "Would a student pay for BT Openzone or go on campus and use it (wireless broadband) free?"

He added that security was a concern for anyone using wi-fi.

"While I would not question BT Openzone security, we are putting in a highly secure system at Cardiff University," he said.

The Cardiff roll-outs coincide with the Welsh Assembly Government's Broadband Wales Programme which aims to increase access and take-up of affordable broadband across the nation by March 2007.

A BT spokesman said the firm was currently talking to a number of councils to explore the possibilities of similar wi-fi zones in other Welsh towns and cities.

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