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Milton Keynes to get UK's 'first WiMax service'

Council gives go-ahead to Freedom4 plans

A commercial WiMax service in Milton Keynes to be run by Freedom4, formerly known as Pipex Wireless, has been given the go-ahead by the local council.

The service, promised in September, will offer broadband without a phone line, for £20 for consumers and £60 for businesses, through ConnectMK, a company owned by Milton Keynes Council. It builds on a trial that Pipex has been running since 2006.

Freedom4 claims this is the "first commercial WiMax service". Although Urban Wimax has been offering Wimax in London since March 2006, Freedom4 has access to licensed spectrum, while Urban uses unlicensed and light-licensed bands.

In fact, ConnectMK aims to provide better broadband to Milton Keynes residents, who are hampered by the poor infrastructure of the area, which is unlikely to be improved by BT's 21CN network. So far around 1,000 people have signed up, and ConnectMK expects to sign them up quickly, loaning computers to less well-off residents, to help with the council's digital inclusion aims.

"Our aim is to make Milton Keynes the first WiMax-powered wireless internet city, and partnering with Freedom4 enables us to drive forward our ambitions," explains Steven Jewell, who is both chief executive of ConnectMK, and head of IT at Milton Keynes Council.

The company aims to turn a profit, driven by WiMax's ability to deliver services that are attractive to business users, because they are symmetric, offering a higher uplink than ADSL. The symmetric version of ADSL, known as SDSL is not so widely available as ADSL, and is more expensive.

ConnectMK's business service has a £45 set-up fee, and then costs £60, £100 or £160 per month, for symmetrical 1Mb, 2Mb or 4Mb services, with data limits of 20, 40 or 80GB.

The residential packages are asymmetrical, and cost £20, £25 or £50 for 1/0.5, 2/0.5 and 2/1Mb services, with 10 20 or 40GB limits.

Freedom4 is backed by Intel Capital, and has promised a cautious roll-out of WiMax services in the UK.


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