Glasgow became the first Scottish city to offer free wi-fi in the city centre’s streets and public spaces on July 10 and since then more than 40,000 individual users have logged on for more than 300,000 sessions on the network, downloading well over a terabyte of data.
Another illustration of the success of the city’s Urban Wireless network is that during the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, usage was higher than that recorded during the equivalent period in Westminster during the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Glasgow’s Urban Wireless network is being delivered through a partnership between Glasgow City Council and BT. There is free 24-hour access to the network for the duration of the contract, a minimum of eight years.
The network has proved so popular in Glasgow that at one point – 1pm on 31 July – more than 1600 devices were connected to the network.
BT is delivering the wi-fi infrastructure, with wireless access points installed around high footfall areas and transport hubs around the city centre and parts of the East End, as well as in the city’s community centres.
Free wi-fi improves people’s experience of living in, working in or visiting Glasgow by enabling them to have high-quality access, via smartphones and tablet computers, to sites providing such information and the council’s online services, tourist and event information, job sites, and local businesses and services.
The Urban Wireless programme is part of the city council’s Digital Glasgow roadmap published in January 2014, which aims to place Glasgow as a world-leading digital city by 2017, supporting economic and social regeneration.
The Urban Wireless Concession will enable BT to deliver a variety of wireless technologies and enhance current and future wireless and mobile coverage within Glasgow, including 3G and 4G, through Small Cell technology.
Glasgow’s City Wireless delivery is based on a concession model, meaning that access to the wireless network in the city comes through the lease of council-owned street furniture and property, with the council providing a license to allow a network operator to build a wireless network.
This model is used by other major UK cities and means that the council does not have to make any investment, with the network being designed, built and operated by the private sector. Any subsequent support, maintenance, upgrading and monitoring will come at no cost to the council.
BT Scotland director Brendan Dick said: “The figures for the first three weeks of free, urban wi-fi were staggering, even though this period coincided with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in the city.
“Our network experienced more than a quarter of a million sessions on 36,000 devices, with around six million minutes clocked up online and more than one Terabyte of data transferred. If we assume that an average Mp3 is three megabytes, in layman’s terms a single Terabyte is the equivalent of downloading 333,333 songs.”
Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “I am delighted that our decision to ensure Glasgow became the first Scottish city to offer free wi-fi has proved to be so popular. Our hopes and expectations that Glasgow’s residents, businesses and visitors would see and enjoy the benefits of this network have proven to be correct. I look forward to its continued success as we extend the network in the next few years.”
BT was awarded the eight year contract - with an option to extend for another two - earlier this year after participating in a competitive dialogue process.
For free internet access, users should simply switch on wi-fi in their device settings. The device will search the airwaves and find which hotspots are in range and the strength of the signal. Users can then select GlasgowCC WiFi and go online.
The next phase of Glasgow’s wireless network will be rolled out from early 2015, extending coverage more widely throughout the city.