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Swindon scores WiFi mesh

Swindon scores WiFi mesh

The plan by Digital City UK is to offer all residents of Swindon a free 1Mb/s WiFi Internet connection - along with a paid-for upgrade option to 20Mb/s.

Swindon is set to score free Wifi as the council plans to install a £1 million wireless network blanketing the city.

As reported over on TechRadar, the service is the brainchild of a collaboration between the city's council and two private companies - aQovia and Avidity - under the banner of Digital City UK.

The project - dubbed Signal - aims to cover the entire city with free 802.11g WiFi coverage, which will be available to all citizens free of charge - albeit at a restricted speed of 1Mb/s. For those who would prefer their band a little broader, the group has promised to make 20Mb/s connectivity available at a price which Digital City UK claims will undercut the competition significantly. If that wasn't enough, the company also promises to offer a three-month free trial of the higher speed to all residents in order to tempt them into upgrading.

As well as the speed upgrades, the project aims to make back its estimated £1 million implementation costs by offering pay-as-you go access to the city's visitors in much the same way as commercial hotspot services such as BT's OpenZone. However, the group has yet to offer any firm pricing - either on the resident's only 20Mb/s service or on the pay-as-you-go offering - or details about latency, contention, or any download caps or traffic shaping that might be in place.

Councilman Rod Bluh believes that the project will offer the ability for "residents in the borough [to] be able to access the Internet for free, [and also] the council and its partners will be able to use the technology to provide cutting edge services to the areas or individuals who need them."

The roll-out of the service is expected to go ahead starting in April of next year. Those in the area who would like to register their interest in the service can do so on the official site.

Do you salute Swindon's efforts to be at the forefront of Digital Britain, or could the £1 million be better spent than on offering 1Mb/s Internet connections to residents? Will enough users pay for the upgrade in order for the project to flourish? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

26 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
M7ck 18th November 2009, 15:26 Quote
I think this is a great idea, I would love other local authoritys to do the same. I think enough people would upgrade to higher speeds. Especially if they do undercut rival suppliers.
Bonzo45 18th November 2009, 15:30 Quote
That sounds really good, Cambridge next please!!! That would be so handy, like when you're out and about you could get out your laptop, use it as a SatNav using Google Earth or compare the price of something you see in the shops with Amazon there and then. It's these kind of situations that happen enough to be annoying, but not enough to warrant you paying for mobile internet.

If they could roll out a worldwide system like this I certainly wouldn't mind a pay-as-you go type system, so long as the price isn't ridiculous.
Turbotab 18th November 2009, 15:45 Quote
There is already a similar scheme for the City of London, however most people who need mobile internet, can already get it through their phone or dongles. If you think about it, to surf the internet you need a smartphone or netbook (I can't see a day tripper hulking a desktop replacement lappy with them, just to browse their e-mails), and most of them already come with a data package.

The real issue in the UK, is who will pay to fibre the last mile, to provide the 100+ mb connections that we need to remain productive, and DL 1080p videos of ninja cats from Youtube!
AshT 18th November 2009, 15:53 Quote
In 10 years time scientists will discover that WiFi fries brains. UL Swindon!

Turbotab if the mesh works well then maybe a few booster masts between Swindon and far out villages would solve the fibre issue?
LithiumDesign 18th November 2009, 15:58 Quote
Yay for me and my soon to be fried brain...
Spiny 18th November 2009, 16:02 Quote
With any luck it'll sterilise the town centre & cut down on the teenage pregnancy rate :)
Matticus 18th November 2009, 16:04 Quote
Sounds very cool. But what if you upgrade to the 20mb/s service and for instance want to download some legal torrents or play some games and you need to open up ports? How will that happen or will all ports just be open in some sort of crazy free for all.

It sounds very good for browsing the net about town, but wouldn't appeal to me as my own home broadband.
Artanix 18th November 2009, 16:10 Quote
its an interesting idea, but i'm not sure what sort of service they're gonna try and offer for the price of £1 million. Boosters could sort out the fibre issues, but then you run into the fact that 1 access point can only serve so many users at once before you start getting nasty error rates, unless something changed i'm fairly sure 802.11g is effectively half duplex (send OR recieve, well collision avoidance, but whatever)... i'm not sure how many users could connect before the service starts getting bad?
labr@t 18th November 2009, 16:28 Quote
ya for council snooping they will have a field day
Flax 18th November 2009, 16:51 Quote
I was under the impression the ISM bands were reserved for non-commercial use?
Woodspoon 18th November 2009, 16:52 Quote
Piracy ahoy!

how do they plan to block pirates on an open network?
SInce the government's been going mentalist and saying it's clamping down on piracy, how is this going to do anything other than make it worse?
Nice idea but it's yet another kick in the nuts for our massively over subscribed creakey old networks.
ch424 18th November 2009, 17:22 Quote
Sounds great if you can't afford broadband, but when you can get mobile internet for £5/month on any of the major networks, I'd be much happier using my phone.
feedayeen 18th November 2009, 19:16 Quote
Woodspoon, didn't you hear? The MPAA shut down Coshocton, Ohio's city wide WiFi over a single download.
culley 18th November 2009, 19:46 Quote
I don't see this as a replacement for your home internet, so many times i've thought to myself i wish i was connected to wi-fi because my 3G or EDGE connection blows, its just a convience.

And the more hardcore user who can't take the speed but can fork up the bill can choose the 20MB/s package.

I just want 4G in the uk that looks like the dogs bollocks right there, and coverage shouldn't be a problem this islands tiny!
Shagbag 18th November 2009, 20:24 Quote
Great news.

**begins downloading latest sources from trunk (nmap, wireshark, metasploit, etc.)**
Cleggmeister 18th November 2009, 22:50 Quote
But surely the good people of Swindon will be too busy with the beauty of their natural habitat to be distracted by such things? ;)
shanky887614 19th November 2009, 10:11 Quote
yes but the problem is who is going to pay for the internet if this happens because its not going to be cheap and i have the feeling it will be extra taxes either to the country or in the places this is happening

me i would rather have everyone to pay for internet becasue if you can't afford the internet you certanly can't afford a computer
Thacrudd 19th November 2009, 14:19 Quote
now that's how you spend tax money! *approved
des@swindon 19th November 2009, 22:33 Quote
It sounds great and they intend to start 7 December. However, it now appears there is a time limit of 2 hours usage and so far they haven't said whether this is per day, week or month. The free period is 3 months but they are unable to say how much the 20Mb package will cost after the free period. They say they will install 1,400 access points but haven't said where or whether they will require planning consents etc.

The 'commercial' guys accept the hardest task will be to persuade current users to change suppliers

The best bit is that the Council will not say how much of taxpayers pounds they have 'invested'

Given only 24 hrs earlier the council said they ahd a £3million shortfall to make up and this would require prioritising todays announcement is mind boggling.

B3CK 20th November 2009, 02:11 Quote
I wonder how this will effect smart phones that are wifi enabled, could save alot of money by using a voip app.
Additionally, I am very very interested in the fine details of the agreements, the equipment, and any software they are using. This is just so interesting to see how they "hammer" things out.
crazyceo 22nd November 2009, 10:25 Quote
If done correctly, people will subscribe to this. I've spent time in Tokyo were they have 50mb and 100mb available via wireless hotspots in the busier parts of the City. The take up I believe is very high and performance is excellent. I'm also pretty sure it's unlimited bandwidth but is restricted from commercial use unless they subscribe.

The problem over here is that it's made into some political issue and sprouted from councils who don't have a clue about what they are doing. As Des@Swindon has quoted, they've done the press conference but missed out the point about the funding shortfall.

As to the fibre for the last mile. 3 years ago I moved house away from a fibre cable area and I cannot overstate how bad an idea that truly was. Having to deal with a BT line that has all the right cabling up and down the country to the exchanges but than have decades old copper wires from the exchange to the house can make you suicidal. No one is willing to go out on a limb and clearly state exactly what speed your line is actually going to get. I had 3 suppliers quoting 3.5mb but the line only generated 1.5mb at best. After many phone calls I eventually got an engineer to come out but found no fault.

Now I've moved back to a fibre area and am living in 50MB (soon to be 100MB) paradise!
Bonzo45 22nd November 2009, 11:52 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by crazyceo

Now I've moved back to a fibre area and am living in 50MB (soon to be 100MB) paradise!

I'm assuming you mean 50Mb (soon to be 100Mb), otherwise daaaayum. That is a very fast connection.
crazyceo 22nd November 2009, 20:23 Quote
Yup, VirginMedia. Wired of course. Although the N1 runs it around the house very nicely. I'm installing Cat6 cable for gigabit wired connections all around the house next week and connected to the server (Windows based of course) in the garage.
Bonzo45 22nd November 2009, 21:59 Quote
I'm definitely jealous of all of your fibre optics, I had no idea they did 100Mb connections now, my 10Mb is fine for me! How much will it be for your 100Mb connection?
crazyceo 23rd November 2009, 08:27 Quote
I believe the 100mb trial has been running for a while now and plans are to roll it out nationally early next year. Cost wise, they do tend to keep the prices the same but just double the speed. XXL currently costs £18pm reduced from £28pm for three months with a phone line. £33pm without a phone line.

Before it's sprouted by some idiot, I don't work for VirginMedia. Customer sales/services sucks big time but once you are up and running it's fantastic.
LithiumDesign 2nd December 2009, 20:13 Quote
I happen to deliver the leaflets for swindon news, and the article says something along the lines of their being a minimum, lower speed connection and then a higher paid for speed connection.
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