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BT readies UK's first broadband wireless service

Speed hikes for Northern Ireland businesses

BT is to roll out a commercial wireless broadband service, in what will be one of the UK's first significant implementations of the technology.

The telco has won a bid from the Northern Ireland government to give the region 100 percent broadband coverage, using a combination of standard ADSL and Alvarion's wireless broadband equipment, BT told PC Advisor sister publication Techworld. BT expects the coverage to have a significant impact on businesses in the area.

Businesses get high-speed access by setting up small aerials on the sides of their homes which are then linked to a central transmitter

According to BT the broadband transmitters emit lower output than mobile phone masts, which in the past have proved the subject of public concern.

Wireless will be used to offer services where ADSL is not available and the overall Northern Ireland service is due for completion by the end of next year. The contract was finalised in late March, but was not publicised at the time, BT said this week.

The rollout follows on from several months of successful trials in Ballingry in Fife, Scotland, Pwllheli in Wales, Porthleven in England and Campsie in Northern Ireland.

"We have been happy with the trials, and we now have a proven product," said a BT Retail spokesman. "We want to replicate this rollout in other areas but it requires partnership with regional development agencies."

BT has said it wants to make broadband available across all UK communities, using wireless to reach those which currently aren't in range of ADSL, but says this is only possible if bankrolled by regional development agency funds.

ADSL has proven to be a viable alternative to traditional business internet solutions such as leased lines, particularly for smaller businesses, branch offices and the like. However, businesses currently don't have access to these low-cost connections if they're out of range of an ADSL-enabled telephone exchange.

BT's wireless service, which it calls 'radio broadband', is designed to offer ADSL-type services at ADSL prices to anyone in the UK, regardless of geography.

"If a business wants ADSL but is out of range, they are currently dependent on hitting a trigger level [of local ADSL demand] in order to get their local exchange enabled. That might take a long time. This could be the perfect solution," the BT spokesman said.

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