Leeds and Bradford are set to become "super-connected" cities after Virgin Media Business has been awarded the UK's first city wireless concessions outside of London
This means the 1.2 million people in Bradford and Leeds' city centres will benefit from a roll out of a free public Wi-Fi service paving the way for the deployment of the next generation of 'small cell' wireless networks.
Huff Post UK first wrote about the small cell technology in September; The devices, which are shoe-box sized and can be mounted on street lights and connected to Virgin Media’s fibre optic network, amplify internet signals and make connections faster than 3G speeds.
In busy areas where lots of people use Wi Fi is used, such as in town centres, the signal can drop or lessen, slowly down download speeds. These small cells amplify the available bandwith, making the signal faster and more reliable.
Speaking to Huff Post UK, Kevin Baughan, director of wireless at Virgin Media Business, said future cities considering similar programmes included Birmingham, Liverpool and some London boroughs.
"The council's are given five-year contracts with the option to extend it by another two years , or six-year contracts with the option to extend by four years," he continued.
"There is a big pressure to be competitive at the moment and it's a tough call for city councils on where to spend the money. Big phone masts with dishes might be cheaper, but there are questions over their reliability and effectiveness in built up areas."
The new free Wi-Fi service will be functional by the start of the New Year thanks to Virgin Media Business's partnership with Global Reach Technology. The first locations to benefit from the service in time for the New Year will be Briggate in Leeds and Bridge Street in Bradford, followed by Millennium Square in Leeds and City Park in Bradford early in 2013.
The concession agreement with Virgin Media Business ensures that the cities of Bradford and Leeds can move towards super connectivity at no cost or financial risk to themselves, and allows both cities to share in the commercial success of future small cell deployments for the mobile network operators by Virgin Media Business.
Councillor Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council said in a statement that Leeds was leading the way in ensuring that itsb infrastructure is in place to make the most of future digital developments.
In Bradford, councillor David Green said in a statement the initiative would "give existing local companies a greater competitive edge in national and global markets, as well attracting new companies and bringing additional jobs".
"Local residents will also be able to take advantage of the opportunities that enhanced broadband connections will bring," he added.