Plans to provide Manchester with a free city-wide broadband wireless network have been unveiled by the city council.
It’s hoped the network could eventually extend over 90 per cent of the Greater Manchester area, covering 400 square miles and 2.2 million people.
The network would be the largest single city broadband area in Europe and would be as large as all of the UK’s other city based broadband networks put together.
The initiative is part of Manchester’s bid in the government’s Digital Challenge Initiative, a competition that will select a region to qualify for up to £3m in funding.
The future of Manchester’s proposed wireless network is not dependent on winning the competition but the council believes that the initiative will seriously strengthen the city’s bid for the prize.
Manchester City Council Leader Sir Richard Leese said: ‘We have been inspired in our plans by the success of wireless and broadband networks in other leading cities around the world, such as San Francisco and Amsterdam.
‘We are initially hoping to establish a 100sq mile area covered by the network, with this increasing to up to 400sq miles in the future.
‘It would help small businesses with internet access and our citizens with improved access to public services. There is nothing on this scale in the UK and I believe it’s important that Manchester seizes the initiative and leads the country in developing a truly connected, digital, modern environment from which we would all benefit.’
The council is hosting an Open Day on 15 December where interested businesses can go and add their comments either openly or in confidence.
Earlier this year UK company The Cloud announced a major initiative to bring wireless broadband blanket coverage to nine British cities through boxes fitted on BT payphones.
In August telecoms firm Pipex also announced that it had successfully completed its latest WiMax trial in Stratford-upon-Avon.
WiMax is similar to WiFi technology but offers high-speed wireless net access over kilometres rather than just a few metres.
Pipex has already said it has plans to roll out WiMax in eight UK cities by 2008, including networks in London and Manchester.