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UK’s largest community wireless network goes live

The UK has switched on its largest free community wireless network providing free wireless broadband to the city of Norwich.

The pilot system is funded by the East of England Development Agency went live Tuesday and has already surpassed its original goals. The network was intended to give a boost to local economic development but has been extended to provide free access to council employees and the public.

The network was built in a joint operation between Synetrix and Telabria and covers 30 square kilometres. The network will provide a hotzone across the city of Norwich with a further 28 hotspots in the district of South Norfolk.

Mark Main, senior analyst at Ovum, pointed to the network’s coverage map to draw attention to its current gaps which are present to protect commercial services from the project. “Projects like this are very important,” said Main, “on this scale there are bound to be teething problems and it’s essential they are worked out in projects like this.”

Telabria claims the £1.1m network project is the largest of its kind in the UK. The entire network was designed and built by Synetrix under a contract awarded to it in late 2005. Telabria supplied over two hundred mSystem APM-300 mesh devices to provide the wifi link by attaching them to street furniture such as lampposts. The main network gateway is on the roof of County Hall in the centre of the city.

Nine clusters of APM-300s are backhauled over WiMAX-class point-to-multipoint infrastructure to a 40Mbps internet feed at County Hall. The network can be accessed by any wifi-equipped device including laptops, PDAs and web-enabled mobile phones.

“After careful assessment of the mesh product market, we chose the Telabria APM-300 as it not only presented the most technically competent solution for this project, but was also priced highly competitively,” said Alex Jadavji, chief executive at Synetrix.

Public sector workers will be able to access the system at speeds up to 1Mbps, while the general public may connect at rates limited to 256Kbps so as not to compete with commercial broadband providers.


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