NSW free wireless plan gets underway

Internet suppliers to scramble for massive wireless network

In the first significant step towards free wireless broadband throughout NSW's most popular cities, the state government today announced a tender inviting Internet providers to bid for the large-scale development.

NSW Minister for Commerce, John Della Bosca, announced Internet providers were being invited to take part in the Iemma government's initiative to provide free wireless broadband to the state's major CBD areas.

Della Bosca said the expression of interest released called for partnerships between the Iemma government and the private sector to provide universal broadband access.

"Universal wireless broadband access will increase opportunities for government and business to deliver services more efficiently, to more people, while residents and visitors will have improved email and internet access," Della Bosca said.

"This initiative will mean that wireless access currently available in 'hot spot' locations, such as some workplaces, cafes and parks would be available universally within CBD areas - so a potential user won't have to worry about their location."

Responses to the expression of interest document are due by February 28, 2007 with a decision on the responses to the EOI expected to be made by second quarter.

Della Bosca believes the improved service will enable employers to grow their businesses and create more job opportunities for NSW families.

"Under the Iemma Government's plan to improve broadband services, the major CBD areas to benefit will include Sydney, North Sydney, Gosford, Liverpool, Newcastle, Penrith, Parramatta, and Wollongong. Service providers will also be encouraged to expand the services to other locations where possible," Della Bosca said.

While free wireless broadband could do wonders for local businesses, the government is confident the new networks won't take business away from existing providers and stated the initiative is about "growing the size of the wireless broadband market and helping build new internet based businesses".

As such, the expression of interest process will also be used to canvas ideas from commercial suppliers about how to stimulate broadband use and increase the uptake of such services.

"Local governments are very supportive of the project and know universal wireless access will make their cities more attractive to businesses," he said. "And we are excited about working with local government and the private sector to extend community and business access to this world leading technology."

No decision has yet been made on the type of technology to be used, but the EOI is about finding the best solution to the provision of wireless broadband and is therefore "technology neutral".

"The most well known technologies are Wi-Fi and WiMax, but there are also other emerging technologies," according the Minister's office. "Proposals will be assessed according to the best solution."

Della Bosca also invited the federal government to assist NSW and its regional local councils to invest in regional communications infrastructure.

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