Imperial College, London, and the communications giant Ericsson have signed an Pounds 18 million deal to provide free personal internet access to staff, students and alumni, plus, for a price, voicemail and data services to student halls of residence.
A spokesman for Imperial said: "Creating websites is not our core business, but this deal will allow us to offer many innovative electronic services."
Staff and students who surf the web for personal ends will be encouraged to use a new ic4life portal run by Ericsson rather than the existing ic.ac.uk. Imperial hopes the move will shift the costs associated with accessing material to the sponsors of ic4life - advertisers.
Staff, students and alumni will be offered cheap deals on items such as computers bought through ic4life, under plans by the college to exploit its purchasing power.
The college is also examining whether groceries ordered through ic4life could be delivered to the South Kensington campus.
Other goods and services could follow: the portal links to a subsidiary of Ericsson called e-Space, which offers goods and services from companies that include Tesco, Waterstones and Reuters.
The ic4life portal will also carry information targeted at staff, students and alumni, such as special interest and discussion groups, lecture times and venues and college events.
Users will be offered free internet access and up to five free e-mail addresses.
The college plans to extend the services provided through ic4life offering, for example, an enhanced careers service for some 65,000 alumni.
Paul Humphries, service campaign manager for Ericsson Enterprise Networks, said: "There is a great alumni community out there that is begging to network."
The deal is part of a seven-year private finance initiative contract between Imperial and Ericsson. At no charge to the college, the communications company is wiring up halls of residence. It will provide a voicemail service for students and data points for students to access the college network, called ic4data.
The 2,000 students who live in halls of residence will be charged normal rates for using the telephone and Pounds 10 a term to use the data points. Ericsson has valued the contract at Pounds 18 million over the seven years.