Council launches massive WiFi network

A million-dollar venture to ease IT burdens for small business in remote Australian locations could potentially find itself an exported as a wireless business model.

The Redland Business Accelerator, a million-dollar project between Queensland’s Redland Shire Council and the private sector aims to promote a suburb-wide wireless network providing the whole gamut of IT advice for small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) subscribers, including access to mentors.

The initiative is a first for Australia and, when completed will be the largest WiFi network in the world, according to the project’s spokesperson. Subscribers get broadband access, live mentoring, software, taxation and legal advice at a starting price of A$160 (US$115) per month.

The key driver for the business accelerator program was the need to provide access to isolated communities, home businesses and ultimately provide sustainable economic growth within the suburb.

CEO of Redlands Shire Council, Susan Rankin, said the council initially came up with the idea of working with local businesses and has been working on the concept for the past 12 months.

“There has been no new infrastructure development put in place, and we can replicate this program anywhere,” she said.

More than 8,000 small and medium businesses operate within the Redland Shire — about 40 minutes south of Brisbane on the shores of Moreton Bay — and Mayor Don Seccombe said the council has worked with the government and industry to form a commercial entity to market in Australia and export throughout Asia.

“Through this model we will achieve dual goals of developing Australian SMEs and generating export revenue,” Seccombe said.

The Federal Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joe Hockey, donated A$25,000 to the project, local software developer Creatop donated A$370,000, with hardware vendor Intel kicking in around A$300,000.

Creatop has developed a suite of SME incubation functions and software applications designed for wireless delivery.

Intel Asia Pacific general manager, Gerry Greeve, said currently the lifecycle of an SME in Australia is in the order of 18 months; a business incubator model from a local council that gives back to the business is an ideal situation for everyone involved.

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