Shoppers and visitors to the market towns of Coalville and Ashby-de-la-Zouch will soon be able to access free Wi-Fi from their mobile devices.
North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) is investing approximately £90,000 in the Wi-Fi, which is proven to bring benefits to businesses and improve the shopping, recreational and tourist experience of those that visit towns, increasing footfall in the process.
The contract to install and provide the free Wi-Fi for the next five years was last week awarded to InTechnology Wi-Fi. It is hoped the new service will be up and running by the end of the year.
The benefits of free public Wi-Fi include:
- Users save on their mobile data and associated charges, which encourages people to stay longer in town centres
- Businesses can more effectively use the web as a marketing tool to attract customers
- It becomes easier for people to navigate through the towns and find the shops, restaurants and venues they are looking for
- The landing page of the free Wi-Fi can be used to promote town centres, events, attractions or business offers
- NWLDC can use data to monitor footfall trends in the town.
The decision to introduce the free Wi-Fi comes after significant research that shows its value to town centres.
Some of the key facts that arose from the research include:
- The 2016 Leicestershire Market Towns research report identified Wi-Fi as being a ‘must have’ for market towns to meet the expectations of consumers
- The Great British High Street's Digital High Street 2020 report, published in 2015, says that public access Wi-Fi is a critical element of the digital infrastructure that is necessary to revitalise the high street
- The Office for National Statistics has reported that 73 per cent of adults in Great Britain in 2017 access the internet 'on the go' using a mobile phone or smartphone - compared to 36 per cent in 2011.
The approximate value of the five-year contract, including installation, is £90,000. NWLDC will meet much of this cost but has secured funding of £15,000 from Leicestershire County Council and £5,000 from the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).
Councillor Tony Gillard, Portfolio Holder for Business at North West Leicestershire District Council, said: “We’re always looking for ways to improve the experience for visitors to our market towns and extensive research showed offering free Wi-Fi can have benefits for businesses, shoppers and tourists.
“We want our businesses to be able to trade and compete in the 21st century and to use their online footprint to attract customers. Once up-and-running shoppers wanting to find the nearest cafe, clothes shop, book store or restaurant can log into the free Wi-Fi to find what they are looking for quickly and easily.
“This is very much a long-term investment for us, boosted by funding from Leicestershire County Council and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), which we believe will increase footfall, trade and the visitor experience in both Coalville and Ashby into the future.”
Natalie Duffield, chief executive of IntechnologyWiFi: "We are delighted to be bringing our free-to-use network to everyone in Ashby and Coalville.
"Free public Wi-Fi can increase access to the digital economy, improve digital skills, support business growth and help raise the profiles of Ashby and Coalville as dynamic and successful places.”