Public Services > Central Government

GDS makes pitch for public sector secure WiFi service users

David Bicknell Published 20 September 2017

Designed to replace “user and guest WiFi”, GovWiFi wants to be standard way to access WiFi across all government and public sector locations; another WiFi service, Govroam, was launched by Jisc in July


The Government Digital Service (GDS) has made a pitch for adoption of a secure WiFi system it has developed for use by civil servants, consultants and visitors to government departments.

In a blog post , GDS says the service, dubbed GovWiFi, has been designed to replace user and guest WiFi and offers a single wifi login which can be “simply and cheaply installed by government departments over their existing infrastructure.” GDS developed and manages the service, which recently passed its beta assessment and currently works in over 100 locations across the country. 

GDS said that anyone who registers with GovWifi will have access to wifi at any participating public sector location. Users register once and after that, they will automatically connect to the GovWifi network. They do not need to remember a password or sign in to different networks when they move between buildings. GDS said GovWifi meets all the requirements from GDS and the National Cyber Security Centre for secure wifi.

GDS added it is tracking the increased use of the service through transactions. It describes a transaction as where a user accesses GovWifi in a particular building on a specific day. For example, if someone connects to GovWifi at one office in the morning and then again at a different location later that day, that makes two transactions.

GovWifi is now recording up to 15,000 transactions a day with GDS saying it is seeing monthly growth of around 20%. Users visiting more than one building per day currently represent around 15% of the total, which recently reached a million transactions.

GDS suggested that one of the best use cases it has seen so far is for departments which have moved buildings, such as those that have moved into a government hub. GDS said that instead of workers losing their connection, GovWifi “provides a seamless transition, with no loss of service.”

The blog pointed out that GDS wants GovWifi to be “the standard way to connect to WiFi across all government and public sector locations. As it runs on existing infrastructure it’s quick and easy to set up and provides a good level of security.”

However, in the wider public sector, there would appear to be an alternative, Govroam, which was launched by education and research not-for-profit digital specialist Jisc at the end of July having gained plaudits from several heavyweight figures in local government. 

Govroam evolved from eduroam, an established Wi-Fi service used by the further and higher education and research sector which runs on the UK’s national research and education network, Janet, and supports the roaming of 1.6m unique devices each month.

Govroam advocates are targeting 80% of higher education users within three years, and 15-20% growth across other verticals each year.

Subscription costs for the govroam service have been described as "less than the cost of a decent laptop" at £3K for individual organisations, £10K for multiple tenant regional enterprises, and £36K for larger organisations.

The original govroam service was launched three years ago by the Belgian national research network Belnet, with the intention that it would be used exclusively for administrations and government departments.

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