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First BT wireless broadband nears

BT is buying gear to power its first public wireless broadband service for rural Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is to get BT's first public wireless broadband service later this year, equipment vendor Alvarion announced on Monday.

BT has signed a £500,000 deal for Alvarion's 5.8GHz BreezeACCESS VL equipment, which will be used to provide broadband services to areas outside the reach of ADSL. "Northern Ireland is the first place to adopt radio [broadband]," BT press officer Ross Cook told ZDNet UK, "and a lot of people will be waiting to see how that goes."

The service is the result of a partnership with the Northern Ireland Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI). "With 99.6 percent of the country to be reached by DSL, wireless is not currently feasible as a stand-alone product without partnership funding," said Cook. "However, it is part of our strategy for 100 percent UK broadband coverage by the end of 2005."

Northern Ireland was one of four areas to host BT wireless broadband trials, with others in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall -- the latter two are still running and being used to investigate other technologies. The Northern Irish service is in band C of the 5.8GHz allocation, which is currently regulated due to other services still using the frequencies. By the end of the year many of these will have been moved elsewhere, freeing the band for use across the UK.

Although the current equipment is non-WiMax compliant, Alvarion says that 5.8GHz WiMax equipment is on its road map. "Come back to us next year," said a spokesperson.