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24 September 2014

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Brace yourself for a wireless Cambridge

Tom Edge
Competition is hotting up for WiFi providers in Cambridge, enabling people to access the internet wirelessly from special hotspots around the city.

WiFi provides short-range, high-speed connections between mobile devices (mobiles, PDAs, laptops, hand held games consoles) and nearby hardware such as WiFi access points which are connected to the wired network.

The Cambridge Matrix offers free access to local content and hopes to have the whole of Cambridge wired-up by June.  Their service connects people who want to provide content to people who want to receive it.

Rend Shakir, Cambridge Matrix

Tom Edge spoke to Rend Shakir of The Cambridge Matrix...

How can you offer free access and what content is available?

The way we provide a service for nothing is by connecting the people who want to provide content to the people who want to receive it.  In a sense it’s like the internet itself. What we are saying is that the companies or organisations should pay not the consumers.  You would be limited to what you could access though, i.e. the organisations that have made a commitment to free access. 

Is this a big opportunity for Cambridge?

We would like Cambridge to be the world’s first fully enabled WiFi city, the opportunity is there and despite all of the talk there aren’t any fully enabled cities.  If we build this communication system first and we build it really well, we will be able to showcase these technologies for the global market and increase the profile Cambridge has globally. 

How significant is your WiFi technology?

This is the first time in the world that hotspots are talking to each other, and passing internet data between them at ultra fast speeds.  It has similar implications to when computers could talk to each other, forming a network of connections that became known as the World Wide Web.  Wireless is currently a bit like a cordless phone and we have made it a bit like a mobile phone.

Who is a typical user of your free network?

A typical user is a visitor who doesn’t already have a set connection.  As soon as they arrive they would be in range of a hotzone, and would be able to find out about local businesses such as where the closest place for a pizza is, or where the university colleges are.

How do you know you’re in a hotspot?

Hotspot, Station Rd.

There is a blue LED, neon type sign, there is one above Station Rd.  The best way to tell is to search for available wireless networks and connect to the one that says Matrix.

What security measures are in place to protect users?

All of the data that runs on our wireless backbone is encrypted at a very high security level.

It costs £50 a year to make your personal website available on the Matrix.

For further information visit Cambridge Matrix.

Find out more about WiFi with our simple guide, and check out the Cambridge Matrix website:
Are you WiFi'd yet? >
Cambridge Matrix >
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites
last updated: 08/03/06
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Margaret Jones
Matrix is the only service where I don't need a phone line or contract for my broadband at home. If you sit in front of a cellular base station and don't get a line on your mobile you can say: "Not so sure Vodaphone are there yet, was holding my mobile only inches from the mast." On the other hand a power failure or the transmitter no longer being in operation or your mobile not working properly can explain why numerous attempts will lead to no connection even when only stood a few metres away from the transmitter. Next time you are in Cambridge visit the Corn Exchange. You will get Matrix in the historic centre without even seeing a transmitter. I was at Strawberry fair when they demo'd TV, radio and phone on the mesh network. The services were mobile the technology is definitely there.

Sarah Bennedict
I think it rocks. It's a similar idea to FON, except these guys don't have the problem of bandwidth sharing because they provide the bandwith and broadband connections as well. Great idea.

Marios, Philadelphia
Ha! Everyone has finally got on the mesh bandwagon. Hotspots talking to each other is the name of the game. I've looked into this company's technology - and frankly wish we had it over here, then maybe our City would be covered with mobile wifi instead of us providing buckets of money for lots of talk. Giving us something that actually works!

Dr Anon., Microsoft
I actually work for Microsoft and can safely say that community-based multi-hop wireless networks as this company is doing is disruptive to the current broadband Internet access paradigm, which relies on cable and DSL being deployed in individual homes. It is important because it allows free flow of information without any moderation or selective rate control. I'm sending this on my way to work, and I probably shouldn't but hey - I'm sending this over the Matrix right now! These guys are just great!!!

Ali M.
Sorry I just also wanted to add that we'd like to get the latest mobile technology into Eastern Europe. The cartel have controlled this stuff too long.

Ali M.
I work in the IT department of a major bank - we've got to be very concerned about security over phonelines and so encrypted VoIP is a value proposition that I can understand.

DL, United States
So the so-called "free access revolution" all this buzz is about is about people getting free access to info about stuff, but they just pay for actual stuff? Seems fair.

Mercedes Jackson, IL, USA
I can see some of the potential of this discovery - it pulls all these different things together, wireless, the internet and the pressure on shops to give more to consumers.

Marcus Herskind
I'm just scratching my poor brain confused about this. First I read about this WiFi in all the Cities in the UK, next there's a long range technology called WiMAX and now this. What's happening?

Dave K
I'm looking forward to this. My NTL connection is OK but it does fall over every now and again and I can be off the net for an evening or overnight until it gets fixed. I often do some work from home in the evenings and it can throw my schedule out if I can't get online, so a robust system where the nodes work together to keep you in touch if one goes down will be a real benefit.

Geoff, Cambridge
I think the incumbant PTTs big telcos won't like this . . . But I agree that it will be all over the world, and I don't think there's any way of stopping it.

Aribert Seidel
Well for years now there have been enthusiasts in the UK doing all these wi-fi projects in villages etc, more than anywhere else in the world so its not surprising to see the first commercial solution come out of Cambridge. I'm pleased that some little guys are finally doing what all the bigs guys have been talking about since ages... :-) Nalbach, Germany

Martha Bailey
Open access to technology is crucial in the information age if “inner-city” dwellers are to play a participatory role in emerging science and technology. Martha B. First American Bank

Professor K. Stirling
I'm a professor in the IT department of an ivy league University. We've been trying to crack city wireless meshes for years now. Wi-Fi mesh networking hasn't taken off because there have been too many problems that need complex solutions. These guys look like they're doing what others have just been either talking about or toying with. And I say well done! Good luck to you! Kenn

Arwan Mansur
At last it's arrived, I heard about this amateur club that went about unwiring villages and giving free web access, glad to see a commercial idea that makes sense finally. This will be everywhere. I give it 3 years!

Danny Murphy JR
Heard about this from a colleague at work. In the US there's this big battle between the government who often side with established service providers and the little guys. With a "Matrix" idea everyone wins - hmmn maybe not the mobile and ISP cartel though!

Herr Manheim
Why didn't I think of this????

Marie Danielka
I've heard about what these guys in Cambridge have been doing, and I think this represents a huge opportunity for all of us, like all the new comms revolutions rolled into one! Power to the consumer!!! Marie

Hans Stolum
This is cool. I'm an engineer and I can see how this can work like a new mobile system that is really much more efficient. The mobile companies won't like it. The ISPs will hate it. But the people will love it. Hans. R. Stolum, Leipzig

I work in tech in Palo Alto. This is incredible. I mean the implications of what they're doing is huge - I'm telling you soon there are going to be millions of things out there that can do this - I think it's going to change the world, and maybe even faster than the Internet.

Tracey Jefferson
I work for the American World Bank and to be honest, this idea is awesome - it's a win win - a new publishing medium where everyoe will benefit. It's like a new property and I expect there will be new baron, lords, and princesses of this technology.

Yasha Burkart
Here in Germany there are a lot of these wi-fi things but the whole thing is disjointed. I think its really cool to have this interconnections. And yes, the companies should pay - we're paying enough!

Jeremy Anderson
Yeah I think it's a great idea - i've been on it and think it's grand!

David Stevens
As a resident in Cambridge, I have to admit I have logged into a Cambridge Matrix Hot Zone, and I really like the way they give free access to this kind of mini-Internet, because you don't have to pay anything to try it, so you see I think it's kind of democratising broadband - bringing it to the people, instead of being the sole reserve of a cartel - it feels good - kind of like privatisation in reverse.

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