Wednesday 11 January 2017

People visiting Sheffield could be logging on to a fast and free city centre Wi-Fi service by the end of the year.

Sheffield City Council has announced it is looking for a provider to offer a public access Wi-Fi service across the city’s Business Improvement District (BID) – at no cost to visitors who use it.

The service will make Sheffield city centre a more vibrant and attractive place for residents, visitors, businesses and shoppers – helping the economy to grow and supporting initiatives such as Alive After Five.

The implementation of free, public-access Wi-Fi is central to the BID’s plans for encouraging visitors, residents and employees to spend more time in the city.

The plans, set to be approved by the Council’s cabinet next Wednesday (18 January), would allow a provider to offer a cutting-edge, high-speed free connection in exchange for exclusive use of street assets used to provide wireless communication services.

Councillor Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business and economy at Sheffield City Council, said: “This offer has the potential to place Sheffield amongst the best connected cities in the country.

“Our ambition is to create the conditions that allow a super-fast, digitally-connected and vibrant city to thrive. Our economy will benefit and Sheffield will become more connected for people using the city centre.

“But we’ll only appoint a provider on our terms – someone who will provide the service at no cost to the public or ourselves.

“We’ve tested the market and believe that a provider will be able to offer the service we want for Sheffield in exchange for exclusive use of council-owned street assets such as lampposts.”

Under the proposed terms of the competitive procurement, a provider would offer a free-of-charge service with high quality customer experience and good coverage potentially including council-owned public buildings such as the Winter Garden.

Currently, there are a number of free of charge public access Wi-Fi schemes operating in Sheffield but these do not cover the open spaces across the city.

The project will require the Council to enter into a contractual arrangement with the preferred bidder. A contract could be awarded in June with the Wi-Fi service expected to go live by December this year.

The manager of Sheffield Business Improvement District (BID) Diane Jarvis said: “This is potentially fantastic news for Sheffield and something that we have been working with the Council and other partners on for some time – seeing it coming to life for our city centre is very exciting.

“We want to see increased connectivity standards for Sheffield city centre. The implementation of free, public-access Wi-Fi is central to the BID’s plans for encouraging visitors, residents and employees to spend more time here.

“We believe that free Wi-Fi could drive greater footfall, supporting the high street and the local economy, and at the same time make it easier for visitors to access information about the city centre, such as retail and leisure attractions.”