BT is trialling radio-based broadband internet access for rural communities in the UK unable to get broadband access over their telephone lines.
Homes more than 6km from an ADSL exchange or near small exchanges that have not been ADSL-enabled have so far been unable to receive broadband service from BT.
The trial offers access using a low-powered antenna on the outside of a house, connected by a cable to the user's PC. The system works using point-to-multipoint radio in the 5.8GHz spectrum to connect to the exchange, said BT spokesman Mike Jarvis.
Users in Ballingry, Pwllheli, Porthleven, England and Campsie will test the service until March. The 105 users will have access to the internet at speeds similar to ADSL access.
Any actual roll-out of the services, however, will depend on Regional Development Agencies partnering with BT to cover the costs of setting up the service. Jarvis said he not expect the cost to end users to be higher than that for ADSL users, but the infrastructure costs will have to be covered.
BT remains committed to offering broadband to all UK users by 2005, and this is one possibility for doing so, Jarvis said.
No users were immediately available to comment on how well the radio service is working for them.
Earlier this year, Netherlands satellite company Aramiska began offering a satellite-based service to rural communities, for an annual charge per village or community of £5,000. The villages of West Haddon and Winwick in rural Northamptonshire took up the service when 11 local users got together and set up West Haddon and Winwick Community Broadband to run the service.
Organizer Trevor Sherman said the service is going well and, while he did not know a great deal about the BT trials, he was not considering changing.
"We're pretty happy with the progress of the system, and an added benefit is that it's community based," he said. "People have met people they never would have otherwise."
Gillian Law writes for IDG News Service