City of London to go wireless

Workers in the City of London will be able to access the Internet from anywhere in the Square Mile once a new wi-fi network goes online within the next six months.

The Corporation of London is funding a partnership with wi-fi network operator The Cloud, which is already developing networks in three London boroughs as well as cities including Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds and Edinburgh, which are all due to go live next month.

Parts of the City will have access to wireless over the next few months before the network coverage is complete.

The wi-fi network will be installed in lamp-posts and street signs, allowing workers and visitors to access the Internet and make voice-over-IP phone calls on handsets or laptops when they are on the move. Users have to pay through their own telecom providers or pay-as-you-go customers through The Cloud website.

The Corporation hopes the network will reinforce the City's status as a world-class financial and business hub by keeping people in touch with their work at all times. Michael Snyder, chairman of the City of London's policy committee, said: "We feel it is important to provide this technology to maintain our position as the world's leading financial centre."

George Polk, CEO of The Cloud, said: "Our network will significantly enhance the capability of the 350,000 or so City workers by providing easy access and user-friendly terms for City businesses, workers and visitors alike."

He said the network was also designed to support secure access and private data networks for the emergency services and other public services, such as transport authorities.

As more and more phone handsets become wi-fi-enabled, with 20 dual function phones offering traditional and wi-fi calls due to come on the market in the next 12 months, voice-over-IP calls are expected to a popular alternative to existing mobile services.

The Cloud is the largest company offering wireless coverage in high-usage areas in the UK, Sweden and Germany, and is working with companies including BT, O2, Vodafone, Skype and Intel to assist the expansion of wireless broadband Internet in Europe.

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