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Westminster to open Wi-Fi network to hoi polloi

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Westminster Council's metropolitan Wi-Fi network is to be made accessible to the public, courtesy of BT's wireless Internet service provider, BT Openzone.

The network will also be upgraded to improve 3G mobile data connectivity in the area.

The Council today named the telco the Wireless City Project's infrastructure partner, as the network expands beyond its Soho core throughout the City of Westminster. It should be noted that the borough does not extend into London's financial district, called The City.

Initially, the roll-out will be extended beyond Soho to "wider parts" of the West End, and the Churchill Gardens and Lisson Grove housing estates, the Council said. The Council still considers the network to be in its pilot phase.

Westminster Council formally launched the Wireless City Project in April, though the scheme dates back more than a year before that, as The Register revealed back in April 2003.

From the start, the network was intended to provide Internet access to borough residents, though its early phases would be restricted to Council applications, such as CCTV surveillance, monitoring noise-pollution and providing staff with on-the-move connections to Council databases.

Tucked away within a statement on BT's appointment is a small note revealing that BT Openzone will connect the WLAN to the Internet and sell access. No formal timetable was given for when the BT Openzone connectivity will be enabled, but sources close to the WISP told The Register the aim is to go live in this coming autumn.

BT will also install a series of its Microconnect Distributed Antennae (MDAs) in the zone, which it claims will significantly boost 3G reception, as well as regular GSM/GPRS connectivity. BT sells access to the MDA network to the mobile phone operators, potentially sharing the revenue received with the Council. MDAs can be unobtrusively attached to lampposts, street signs, CCTV poles and other infrastructure owned by the Council, which governs the installation of mobile phone masts. ®

Related stories

Central London Wi-Fi zone gets green light
London Wi-Fi plan hits lamppost
Can Westminster really set up a WiFi zone in a month?
London's Soho to get blanket 802.11 cover for voice, data

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