Newcastle City Council and Gateshead Council have signed a deal with Wi-Fi provider Gowex that will enable people in both cities to get free internet access while in public.
Under the contract, announced today, Gowex will install Wi-Fi hotspots across the cities, beginning this summer and finishing early next year.
Gowex said the bandwidth speed will be fast enough for “the vast majority of functions”.
The project – which received government funding from Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) – is part of the Go Digital Newcastle initiative, which is aiming to bring superfast broadband to 97 per cent of the city by summer 2015.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said the investment will put Newcastle and Gateshead at the forefront of UK areas for public Wi-Fi availability.
“People will be able to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspots around city and town centre, high streets and public buildings – free of charge," said Forbes. "It means they can check their emails, compare prices, select restaurants, book tickets and access public information on the move."
Malcolm Graham, Gateshead Council’s Cabinet Member for Employment and Skills said: “This is a fantastic boost for businesses, visitors and residents."
Forbes added: “We insisted that local labour was used for this project, and we’re pleased to say Gowex is paying for the work – and maintenance – to be carried out by council staff in Gateshead and by our current streetlight contractors in Newcastle. We’re pleased with this arrangement, because it means our installation is being done by local workers who know the area, and have the knowledge, equipment and training to do the work to a high standard.”
The councils were assisted in making their choice of Gowex by consultants Real Wireless.
Mark Keenan, director at Real Wireless, said: “Real Wireless worked alongside Newcastle Council first to understand the challenge and then to assess the potential bids.”
Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said: “With demand for Wi-Fi skyrocketing, this is tremendous news for Newcastle, one of our 22 Super-Connected cities."
Gowex has already rolled out its wireless networking equipment in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Miami, Dubai and Paris.