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Smart Telecom and Cork City Council have teamed up to launch what is believed to be the first citywide high-speed Wi-Fi network in Europe.

The new MeshHopper service is the first publicly accessible metropolitan area wireless network in the country. Unlike regular hotspots which allow users to access high-speed internet services providing they are within a relatively short distance from a base unit - such as within the confines of a hotel or cafe - Smart Telecom's service covers a 1.5 sq kilometre area which means that users will be able to roam within the whole of Cork city centre without losing their internet signal.

The network will be accessible by the public via credit card on any wireless compatible device such as laptops and PDAs. Although the service will initially be free, the company is due to start charging for it almost immediately. "We haven't fixed pricing as yet, but we plan to be as disruptive with our pricing on the Wi-Fi network as we are with our other pricing on other services we offer," Lorcan Brophy, business development director, Smart Telecom told EletricNews.Net.

The company will deliver a choice of internet broadband speeds to support fast web browsing and email access. "Presently if you log on to the network as a Wi-Fi user you'll be allocated 512Kbps downstream and 128Kbps upstream data speeds which is similar to Eircom's original broadband offering," said Brophy." Unlike most broadband services currently on offer, there's no contention ratio to deal with on the MeshHopper network and we will keep an eye on usage and consider increasing access speeds if required."

The technology behind Smart's new wireless network - which has been used to deliver wireless services in parts of the US and Asia - will consist of a self-configuring routed-mesh network, initially supporting 802.11b/a/g devices. The network will utilise the recently commissioned Cork Metropolitan Area Network (CMAN) installed by Cork City Council to provide the backhaul internet access.

"As a country we need to move up the value chain if we are to remain in a position of advantage vis-a-vis our competitors both in Europe and abroad," said Sean Martin, Lord Mayor of Cork. "Initiatives such as the Wi-Fi network mean that we can offer cutting edge technology to businesses already in-situ and those that are considering inwardly investing in our economy."

Brophy said Smart Telecom is in discussions with four city councils in Ireland and with a number of private organisations "regarding rollout of the network. In addition, one or two corporates in Cork are interested in utilising the network onsite and then being able to put it out further to the city so that employees and contractors can have VPN access to the corporate network".

© ENN

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