Virgin Media Business will provide free citywide Wi-Fi to citizens of Leeds and Bradford after winning the first contract to offer the service outside London.
The deal means Virgin will provide free mobile internet to 1.2 million people as part of the government's super connected city initiative. The free Wi-Fi service will run via a series of "small cell" transmitters and the first stage will be ready in time for the New Year.
Small cell architecture achieves connectivity through taking the capacity required to serve a large number of users across a large area and concentrating it into a small area for the benefit of a smaller number of users.
The contract, which requires no government subsidies, comes after successful trials by Virgin Media Business during the summer, which demonstrated how small cells can boost connectivity of 3G and 4G networks. The service will be operated by Virgin partner Mobile Reach Technology and powered by Virgin Media's fibre network.
"Small cells can transform the mobile experience by providing the connectivity needed to match the explosive broadband demand from the rapidly growing number of smartphones and tablets," said Kevin Baughan, Director of Wireless for Virgin Media Business.
"In Leeds and Bradford, we're working with both the local authorities and mobile operators to put in place the infrastructure that will give residents, consumers and businesses access to the wireless connectivity that they need," he added.
The deal to provide free Wi-Fi to city centres has been welcomes by local authorities who see it as a boost to both businesses and residents.
"The super connected city initiative means a great deal for Bradford as we are a growing city with a big economy and the initiative will give existing local companies a greater competitive edge in national and global markets, as well attracting new companies and bringing additional jobs," said Councillor David Green, leader of Bradford Council.
Virgin's Leeds and Bradford contract comes after the firm was awarded a license to provide Wi-Fi on the London Underground earlier this year.
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