Brighton and Hove is on its way to becoming the technology capital of Europe with free wireless internet access for all.

The city council is considering installing a WiFi network covering central Brighton next year which would be extended later across the entire city.

The service would allow everyone from commuters on buses to tourists in city parks to log on to the internet using wireless devices.

Visitors and residents would be able to check their emails, participate in meetings or shop online from virtually anywhere in the city.

Council leader Simon Burgess said: "We already have a great reputation for e-commerce and this will ensure we are at the cutting edge and attracting future innovators. It will only enhance our reputation."

WiFi hotspots are already found in dozens of pubs, restaurants and cafés across the city and internet surfers can also connect to the web for free on Brighton beach using a network set up by But the new project would be the country's first city-wide network.

Communications giant BT is in talks with town hall bosses to install small wireless antennae on lamp posts, although the council said it would consider all providers, including Virgin Media and Siemens. Councillor Burgess said the first phase of the service, covering central Brighton and Hove, could be operating within a year.

The council is also investigating the possibility of providing free or subsidised WiFi to other parts of the city such as the Lewes Road corridor, where thousands of students live.

A report to the policy and resources committee, which will be discussed today, states: "It could provide free or lowcost internet access in areas of social need, either on residents' own equipment or in libraries, community centres, youth groups or via internet kiosks."

A £50,000 paper is to be drawn up over the summer months to explore the options available.

In Norwich, where a £1.1 million pilot has been launched, free broadband is available within the city centre thanks to backing from the East of England Development Agency, Norfolk County Council and wireless provider Synetrix.

And BT, which approached the council, is already working on WiFi networks in Westminster and Liverpool.

According to the report: "Brighton has a burgeoning and successful e-business community who would benefit hugely from reliable highcapacity ubiquitous wireless broadband access."

Surveillance camera coverage could be extended thanks to the new technology and doctors and nurses would be able to take a virtual hospital to patients' homes.

Tourists and visitors would be able to call up the latest information about places of interest, hotel accommodation and restaurant reviews, and public transport updates would be available to commuters.

Dan Evans, manager of Brighton animation company said a wireless city would be a big boost for businesses.

He said: "People from London are moving to Brighton to set up business and having wireless broadband across the city will help encourage more to move.

"Clients coming down to Brighton love to be taken out and this will allow us to do that."

However, Peter Wood, who runs internet security company First Base Technologies in High Street, Shoreham, said care had to be taken to ensure information could be intercepted.

He said: "Organised criminals are going to focus on wireless networks in the future and the council should have a system in place to stop information being intercepted."