Inspired Broadcast Networks (IBN) has announced plans to build a nationwide high-speed wireless Internet network connecting 3,000 UK pubs by the end of the year.
IBN is a joint venture between wireless-service provider Inspired Technology and game-machine supplier Leisure Link Holdings. The network is called The Cloud, and IBN claims it will be the biggest Wi-Fi network of its kind in Europe, covering 250 locations by the end of April, the company said. IBN is to offer free trial services in these locations.
In July the company will begin offering commercial service at 1,000 locations, with 3,000 covered by the end of the year.
The network will leverage the national network of broadband-connected games terminals operated by Inspired Technology in co-operation with Leisure Link, which manages 90,000 game machines in 30,000 locations in the UK.
"Pubs, especially in the afternoons, tend to be quiet places where many business people come to work or have meetings over lunch," said George Polk, managing director of The Cloud service. "And a lot of these people come with notebook computers."
For future expansion, IBN will look at other sites with coin-operated entertainment and game machines in the Leisure Link group, Polk said.
IBN intends to sell capacity on its WLAN network to companies offering high-speed wireless Internet access to consumers, according to Polk. "Our principal business is wholesale," he said.
"We will offer capacity to carriers, systems integrators and other well-branded companies that want to sell high-speed wireless Internet access to their customers."
BT hopes to expand the capacity of its Openzone wireless service through The Cloud network, Polk said, adding that the service will support roaming between hotspots within the IBN network and networks of its customers.
In addition, IBN plans to sell directly to customers. "The entertainment machines in pubs are equipped to accept money and print vouchers," Polk said. "So we plan to use these machines to sell service directly to customers on a pay-as-you-go basis."
Polk declined to provide prices, saying only that they would have to be as attractive as offers already available on the market.
Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson of Sweden and Intel of the US have been selected to supply the technology, according to the statement.
On Thursday Ericsson announced a contract to supply IBN with WLAN base stations, based on the 802.11b standard, and DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modems for an additional 2,000 hotspots, the company said.
Leisure Link has over 30,000 locations.