Virgin Media Business has won the UK’s first city wireless concessions outside of London, since the Government announced the first phase of its super connected city initiative. This heralds the roll out of a free public Wi-Fi service to 1.2 million people in Bradford and Leeds city centres and paves the way for the deployment of the next generation of ‘small cell’ wireless networks.
This first step on the journey towards super connectivity sees both cities realise their ambitions of providing a free public Wi-Fi service in city centres just in time for the start of the New Year. The high performance Wi-Fi service will be open to all, operated for Virgin Media Business by its partner Global Reach Technology Ltd and powered by Virgin Media’s fibre network. 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.
This win follows the highly successful trials that Virgin Media Business undertook in the summer, proving that small cell architectures can significantly boost the capacity of both 3G and 4G networks. Ensuring that mobile services will be able to keep up with the explosive growth in demand for mobile broadband is the critical second step that Leeds and Bradford are making towards super connectivity. Small Cell architectures achieve this goal by taking the capacity that would have been used to serve a large number of customers over a large area and instead concentrate it over a much smaller area and a much smaller number of customers. Through enabling the future deployment of small cells, Leeds and Bradford can look forward to their residents and visitors enjoying mobile connectivity as it was always meant to be, super-fast and reliable as standard, even in the busiest parts of their cities.
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 explained: “I’m delighted our citizens, visitors and businesses will be among the first in the country to benefit from a free, fast, accessible city centre Wi-Fi service. Leeds is leading the way in ensuring that our infrastructure is in place to make the most of future digital developments and we are pleased that our neighbours Bradford are also supporting the regional push for super-fast broadband”.
Councillor David Green, Council Leader of Bradford Council commented: “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. Local residents will also be able to take advantage of the opportunities that enhanced broadband connections will bring.”
Kevin Baughan, Director of Wireless, Virgin Media Business explained: “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. 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 continued: “These projects in Leeds and Bradford are an important step towards making the vision of super-connected cities a reality and enabling future prosperity and innovation.”
 According to latest ONS research, in 2011 the population of Leeds was 751,500 and 512,600 in Bradford, making a total of over 1.2 million