The rocket-hardened city of Sderot can now bill itself as one of the country's leading hi-tech hot-spots following the launch on Tuesday of a WiMAX initiative that will provide free Internet access to kindergartens, schools and Sapir College. The project is the result of a collaborative effort between 012 Smile.Communications, the Communications Ministry, Intel Corporation and Alvarion Ltd. The state-of-the-art initiative will establish WiMAX wireless-based Internet coverage in the South. It is the first of its kind in Israel and one of the first in the world, and is intended as an expression of solidarity with the residents of Sderot and the Western Negev due to the security situation in the region. "I congratulate this initiative to connect kindergartens in Sderot using WiMAX wireless Internet technology, thus bringing Sderot to the forefront of this innovative technology, unparalleled throughout Israel," Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal said Tuesday at a press conference in Sderot announcing the project. "We wish for the success of this project and hope that it will expand to other centers in the region in the near future so that many more people will benefit from broadband wireless Internet connections." WiMAX technology enables the use of wireless broadband links for long distances. The Sderot project will allow students to surf the Web without cost and enjoy high-quality and continuous use of WiMAX technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to enable local citizens to enjoy wireless broadband surfing and to supply Internet links to public institutions - including kindergartens and schools - with WiMAX technology. The initiative is being conducted as part of an experimental extension of WiMAX services and is meant to place Sderot and the Western Negev at the forefront of this technology. "The State of Israel must be committed to minimizing educational and technological gaps, bringing the periphery closer to the center and devoting efforts to improving the quality of life of citizens in Sderot and the Western Negev," Communications Minister Ariel Attias said at the press conference. "The possibility of utilizing free access to WiMAX technology is one means of achieving these goals." The project utilizes wireless solutions from Alvarion and Intel, together with telephone services and Internet network infrastructure from 012 Smile to connect dozens of kindergartens and one Sderot elementary school to the mobile WiMAX-based wireless network. The technology is a broadband system that offers widespread wireless coverage for the transmission of various services - such as voice, data and Internet - to any person with end-user equipment that can be used for portable surfing. Intel donated dozens of laptop computers as part of this initiative. "The Communications Ministry's expansion of the license for a technology experiment using WiMAX technology has led to the establishment of a joint community initiative, combining innovation and contributions to the community of Sderot and the Western Negev," 012 Smile CEO Stella Hendler said at the press conference. "As one of Israel's leading communication companies, 012 Smile sees its involvement in the community as a pivotal and important part of its work. We are proud to be part of this project that is placing Sderot on the cutting-edge of technological innovation in Israel." Other companies and organizations involved in the project include HP Israel, which donated a personal printer to each kindergarten, and the Baran Group Ltd., which engages in the supply, establishment and management of communication projects in Israel and abroad, and dealt with required license applications. The Center for Educational Technology (MATACH) donated a year's free access to the Web site "Maya's Secret," an educational MATACH site for ages four to seven that includes reading, math, games and artwork. The Second Authority for Television and Radio donated access to the existing mast at the Sapir College campus on which the project's transmission equipment was installed. Before 012 can install a permanent mobile WiMAX network, it must receive the proper permits from the Communications Ministry, something expected in the middle of 2008, a ministry official told The Jerusalem Post.