NTL wireless trial ends in failure

Point-to-point wireless doesn't appear to have a commercial future in places like Milton Keynes, where trees and buildings get in the way

NTL has announced that it will not launch a commercial high-speed wireless broadband service in Milton Keynes, a decision that casts some doubts on the technology's potential as an alternative broadband delivery mechanism.

The cable operator began trialling its wireless broadband product back in March. Ninety Milton Keynes residents took part and were kitted out with wireless equipment. However, even though most of them said they were satisfied with the service, NTL has concluded that it doesn't make sense to launch a full-scale version of the service.

"We completed the trial in July and have now evaluated the results," said NTL spokesman Malcolm Padley on Tuesday.

"To roll it out commercially would require access to many more communications towers than we originally thought," Padley explained.

The NTL trial involved point-to-point wireless connections. These require a clear line of sight, and the extra towers would be needed to cope with the large number of trees and buildings in Milton Keynes, Padley said.

Getting access to these extra towers and installing the necessary equipment would cost too much to make the service economically viable, according to NTL.

This suggests that point-to-point wireless broadband may have more of a commercial future in sparsely populated rural areas, but that trees could be an issue even then. NTL, though, was reluctant for too many conclusions to be drawn on the back of one trial.

Milton Keynes is a notorious broadband blackspot. A number of factors mean that broadband availability there is lower than the national average. These include a large amount of number telephone lines which -- unlike copper -- cannot support ADSL. The city's grid system also means some BT phone lines are too long to carry a broadband connection.

BT is currently testing ways of extending the reach of its broadband products.

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