BT broadband wireless for Northern Ireland

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

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% broadband coverage, using a combination of standard ADSL and Alvarion  wireless broadband equipment. BT expected the coverage to have a significant impact on businesses in the area.

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.

The roll-out follows on from several months of successful trials in Ballingry in Fife, Pwllheli, Porthleven and Campsie.

"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 wants to make broadband available across the UK, using wireless to reach those which are out of range of ADSL, but said 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 cannot access 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 dependent on hitting a trigger level [of local ADSL demand] to get their local exchange enabled. That might take a long time. This could be the perfect solution," the BT spokesman said.

Wireless broadband can be used for more than just ADSL-style connections. Telecommunications companies and businesses are showing strong interest in the technology as a complement to Wi-Fi, GPRS and 3G.

In North America, a handful of companies are already offering wireless services that compete with ADSL and cable, some of which also offer mobile services for laptops and PDAs.

Matthew Broersma writes for

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