The pub's the hub for community broadband

Business and individuals in many rural areas still denied a high-speed Web connection could soon look to their local watering hole for broadband

A wireless broadband service launched this month is attempting to use a combination of village pubs and mesh networking to close Britain’s broadband divide.

Jim Baker, founder and chief executive of Telabria, announced the launch of RuralMesh at the Wireless LAN Event in London on Tuesday. Baker claims that RuralMesh can provide wireless Internet access at speeds and prices comparable to DSL.

"The pub really can be the hub for much more than just social networking. It can also act as the hub for a wireless community-wide broadband service," said Baker.

Telabria has been trialling RuralMesh for the past three months in partnership with Shepherd Neame, the brewing and pub company. Several pubs in Kent have tested the system, and Baker says it's now ready for wider deployment.

A RuralMesh deployment begins with Telabria installing a high-speed backhaul connection, as well as some personal computers, at the local pub.

Web access at the pub will be free, and once this bandwidth is in place local homes and businesses can also sign up for broadband. To get it, they'll need one of Telabria's mesh radio receivers installed at their premises.

These receivers communicate with each other to create a wireless network in the area -- in a manner similar to the LocustWorld Mesh box.

Telabria offers two tiers of pricing. A 512 Kilobit per second link will cost £29.99 per month, and a 2 Megabit per second link will cost £39.99 per month.

RuralMesh will be targeted at rural areas where DSL and cable broadband aren't available. As well as providing Internet access, the system offers other benefits to users as it is effectively a massive local area network.

"People don't need to go onto the wider Internet, as they can use some applications such as messaging or printer-sharing over the local network. We'll soon have voice over IP running as well, which means people soon won't need their BT line at all," said Baker.

Telabria also sets up an individual portal for each pub, which can include local information and adverts.

The company isn't the first to consider using village pubs as the fulcrums of rural networks. Last year The Cloud began installing Wi-Fi hot spots at public houses by using the bandwidth already in place for games machines. Telabria is innovative, though, in using mesh -- one of the more exciting areas of wireless at present -- to distribute the bandwidth.

Baker also confessed that his mission for Telabria brings an added bonus.

"The great thing is that I can tell the wife that I've got to go to the pub to work," he said.