Project connects Sheffield to free, superfast Wi-Fi network

15 September 2020

Ruckus Networks, an ARRIS company, got involved in Sheffield City’s free-to-use, superfast Wi-Fi project. Working collaboratively with Idaq Networks – it runs the network - and Siklu, a player in millimetre wave radio technology, the project creates a virtual data ring-road around the city, transmitting high-speed capacity between tall buildings, before bringing it down to street level to be used by residents.

 The project delivers superfast internet, at 20 gigabits per second (Gbps), to 293 streets in the city and up to 24,000 users can connect simultaneously. The network is free, and at no cost users or to the council who provided exclusive access to street furniture and buildings to install the network. The network can also be leveraged for other commercial opportunities to help fund the service.

As cities across the UK compete to attract tourists and businesses and access the £2.4bn investment announced during the autumn budget for the Transforming Cities Fund, free Wi-Fi is an important part of the equation. “Free Wi-Fi networks are crucial to helping all residents engage with the opportunities available online,” explains Mark Gannon, director, business change and information solutions (BCIS), resources portfolio, Sheffield City Council. “We believe we have a responsibility to give all residents the ability to access information and services online so they can carry out tasks such as applying for jobs or benefits. It’s also important for supporting our businesses and entrepreneurs as it should increase footfall in the city centre.”

The network is future-proofed and has the ability to support future council-led projects such as footfall tracking, traffic management, and smart recycling.

At the centre of the deployment is a unique combination of Ruckus and Siklu technology that helps overcome network interference (a key challenge of smart cities). High-speed fibre is delivered into one building, the point of presence (PoP) site. Idaq Networks then positioned multiple Siklu radios across a network of tall buildings around the city. The fibre connectivity which is brought into the PoP can then be bounced between these buildings, creating fibre through the air, up to distances of 6km.

Siklu radios are then used to deliver these signals down to street level, leveraging shorter buildings and even streetlights, where a high-capacity wireless connection is delivered into a Ruckus Wi-Fi access point, connecting Sheffield’s citizens.