Irishman’s plan to cover UK cities with Wi-Fi


4 Jan 2006

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Former Ebeon founder Norman Crowley’s UK-based Wi-Fi operator The Cloud has unveiled ambitious plans to blanket cover entire UK cities with wireless internet access.

It has emerged that Crowley’s company The Cloud, of which he is co-chief executive, has entered into a partnership with BT to deploy discrete Wi-Fi boxes across 500 payphones in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool and the London boroughs of Kensington & Chelsea, Camden and Islington.

The Cloud and BT will share the revenue generated by these hotspots. It is undertood that The Cloud’s network will be available to internet users who use the subscription services of BT Openzone, O2, SkypeZones and Nintendo Wi-Fi.

The Cloud currently has hundreds of wireless hotspots across hotels and pubs in the UK and has established an international exchange, part-financed by IBM, that brings together the world’s leading public Wi-Fi providers to enable web surfers to access the internet across a huge global network of hotspots at airports, cafes and hotels.

Established by ex-Ebeon executives, including Norman Crowley, Inspired Broadcast Networks in collaboration with Ericsson and Intel created ‘The Cloud’ in 2003. The Cloud is open to any branded service provider to offer Wi-Fi services to their customers under their own brand. BT Openzone became the first service provider on The Cloud and began offering its services in 2003, making the network the largest of its type in Europe.

Prior to entering into The Cloud, Crowley’s Inspired Broadcast Networks began building this network two years ago, leveraging its UK-wide network of broadband connected games terminals and its exclusive partnership with Leisure Link, which manages 90,000 machines in 30,000 locations across the UK.

In September 2004 The Cloud bulked up its management team with an infusion of senior executives from the Financial Times, Colt and Orange. The move followed a funding round in which venture capitalists 3i and Accel Partners pumped around €10m into the company.

At the last count The Cloud has some 6,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the UK, Sweden and Germany.

One of the first ventures to come out of The Cloud, entitled RoamPoint, is part financed by IBM and aims to link together the numerous wireless hotspots to be found in hotels, airports, railway stations and cafes into one platform so that users can access an extensive array of hotspots.

By John Kennedy