Businesses told to gang up for broadband

Wireless high-speed telco promises to roll out its network to any area where one hundred small businesses are prepared to sign up
Written by Graeme Wearden, Contributor

A UK wireless network operator has promised that it will provide broadband services in any area of Britain where at least 100 customers want it.

Tele2, which already operates a high-speed wireless network in some parts of Britain, made its pledge on Wednesday. It is hoping to accelerate the rollout of broadband services in the UK, at a time when BT is refusing to offer its ADSL service in many rural areas until it sees more evidence of demand.

"We only need 100 paying customers to justify the cost of putting up a new mast and rolling out the network," said James McCall, Tele2's UK sales manager.

This offer, called "Bringing Broadband 2 you", could be an effective way for small businesses in rural areas to get high-speed Web access. Around 1,000 of BT's local exchanges are now ADSL-enabled, covering over 60 percent of the British population, but the telco has concentrated on densely populated areas where there are more customers.

As Sir George Young MP complained recently, in many parts of the country -- even those close to major commercial centres -- residents simply have no idea when broadband will reach them.

BT does not feel that it should be criticised for making the commercial decision to restricting ADSL rollout to areas where it makes economic sense. The telco points out that cable companies have followed a similar policy.

Other telecoms companies appear to share BT's view that it isn't yet economically viable to offer broadband in rural areas. Rival operators can now install their own equipment in BT's local exchanges and offer broadband directly to home users, but local-loop unbundling has yet to prove popular - with very few lines having been unbundled yet.

BT is also currently testing a technology called mesh radio which might prove to be an efficient way of offering broadband in rural areas.

Tele2's promise is part of a sponsorship package it is giving to a Web site that campaigns for more broadband services in the UK. Broadband4britain.co.uk is primarily an online petition for people who can't get the high-speed services they want, but with Tele2's investment it hopes to offer more information and resources for those seeking broadband.

Tele2 recently extended its wireless broadband services to Crystal Palace in South London. By 2003, the company plans to have extended its network, which provides speeds between 512kbps and 2MB per second, to cities such as Leeds, Reading, Coventry and Bristol.

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