Newcastle and Gateshead have successfully struck a deal to install free Wi-Fi in scores of public areas.
The Wi-Fi hotspots will be provided by GOWEX, which has already created wireless ‘smart cities’ including San Francisco, New York, Miami, Dubai and Paris.
Residents and visitors registering with GOWEX for the service will be able to connect to free Wi-Fi on both sides of the river, at any time of the day or night.
Leader of Newcastle City Council Councillor Nick Forbes said: “As superfast broadband rolls out across Newcastle, it will make a big difference to businesses and residents who sign up for it. But these days, it’s important for people to have access to broadband while they’re on the move too – this investment will put Newcastle and Gateshead in the forefront of UK areas for public Wi-Fi availability.”
Cllr Malcolm Graham, Gateshead Council’s Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills added: “This is a fantastic boost for businesses, visitors and residents. Being able to connect quickly and easily to the internet is now such an integral part of business and personal life. This scheme offering free Wi-Fi in key public areas confirms our commitment to being at the forefront of the digital revolution.”
Under the contract, GOWEX will be installing a large number of connection hotspots, beginning this summer and finishing by the start of 2015.
The councils were assisted in making their choice of GOWEX by consultants Real Wireless.
Real Wireless director Mark Keenan said: “As councils look at how to provide improved wireless they need to seek trusted, independent advice to understand the challenges and the proposed solutions to ensure the best return for their money.”
The project – which received Government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – is part of the Go Digital Newcastle initiative, which is bringing superfast broadband to 97 per cent of the city by summer 2015.
Go Digital Newcastle is a government scheme delivered by Newcastle City Council and is designed to boost the local economy. Small and medium businesses can apply for free vouchers worth up to £3,000 towards the cost of getting their businesses connected to superfast broadband.
Businesses can also access a programme of free business support to show them how to make the most of their speedy connections. Specialist advisers will give practical advice and help, including details on how businesses can get a grant of up to £2,000 for related equipment and consultancy projects.
The Government’s Super Connected Cities Programme, covers the Broadband Connection Voucher scheme, Wi-Fi in the city and the Cloud Innovation Centre.
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “With demand for Wi-Fi skyrocketing, this is tremendous news for Newcastle, one of our 22 Super-Connected cities. The funding that Government has made available to Newcastle will see free Wi-Fi spots pop up in public areas across the city, allowing everyone access to broadband while on the move, and is all part of the remarkable transformation of connectivity currently underway.”