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London gets free WiMax service

Check your postcode

Urban Wimax is offering what it describes as "the UK's first true WiMax services" for free.

To no great surprise, "free service" means another WiMax trial, but one that may be more advanced than others – including Libera in London, Telabria in Kent, Pipex in Stratford and Brighton's Metranet. The difference, according to Urban WiMax, is that it is promising a smooth change from a free service starting in April to a paid-for service in July, and is based on 802.16d standard kit, not pre-WiMax.

"When we begin to charge, it will cost 50 to 70 percent of BT's SDSL [symmetrical digital subscriber line] prices at wholesale levels," said Colin Flynn, sales director at the service provider. Currently, this suggests users could be paying from around £50 a month for 1Mbps [megabits per second] symmetrical service, with higher prices for rates up to 10Mbps. A price chart suggests the prices might be £100 and £200 a month respectively for 2Mbps and 4Mbps services, but Flynn says any price could be reduced to keep its promise of undercutting the competition.

For now, though, the company is using a free offer to build up customers, mainly with a view to getting testimonials. The website puts a value of £1,353 on free install and hardware and three months' subscription, and there's no obligation to continue at the end of the trial.

The service is installed by Urban WiMax, using an "unobtrusive" antenna on the roof, but the company could have a self-install product later, said Flynn. "We're trying to offer a fairly standardised business, with service-level agreements," he explained. Inside the building, the service would be distributed by Wi-Fi or ethernet.

Urban WiMax expects to offer a two-year contract, with no installation fee. "But we are conscious that these things can change," says Flynn. The eventual prices "will depend on the prevailing competition".

Flynn would not reveal the equipment involved. "It's subject to change in any case – that's one of the joys of having an interoperable standard," he said.

Urban WiMax's site includes an advanced postcode checker, which takes into account hills, trees and contour lines, in order to include line-of-sight connection. PC Advisor's sister website Techworld's office on Brixton Hill passed the test (the London Eye can be seen from its roof).

This story first appeared on Techworld.com.


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