UK gets fastest-ever wireless broadband

Libera is building a wireless broadband network using the 28GHz band, with an initial roll-out set for London's Docklands

Libera announced on Tuesday that it is building a new and independent wireless broadband network, using the 28GHz band of the radio spectrum. The first base station, located in Docklands, will go live in July this year and the rest of the Greater London network should be operational by early summer 2005. The company is also planning a national rollout that it says will eventually be able to reach about 75 percent of UK businesses.

Libera will offer business customers broadband capacity of between 1Mbps and 36Mbps. Customers will be able to choose the level of broadband capacity that they want.

"If they need more bandwidth we can turn it up, if they need less we can turn it down," said Paul Momtahan, marketing director at Libera.

Momtahan did not want to state the exact cost of this service due to complex pricing plans, but said that it would be "priced similar to business class SDSL but with better bandwidth, flexibility and reliability".

"Ofcom is very positive about what we're doing -- making use of wireless broadband," said Momtahan.

In order to operate legally, Libera has obtained a number of licences entitling it to run services using the 28GHz band in various regions of the country. Momtahan said he did not know the exact number of licences purchased, but estimated that Libera had purchased six out of the 10 licences on offer.

He added that Libera is currently in discussions with Ofcom about "releasing the remaining [licence] areas on a city-by-city basis to reduce costs."

Ofcom's enthusiasm regarding Libera's strategy may be partly due to relief at having finally sold some of the 28GHz licences -- the second auction ended in October last year, without attracting a single bid.

One limiting factor on the use of 28GHz has been the cost of setting up a 28GHz wireless network, which is significantly more than the cost of setting up a network at a lower frequency.

Momtahan said that the technology behind Libera's 28GHz network is "not that expensive". He estimated that base stations cost between £50,000 and £90,000, and that the total cost of rolling out the London network would be £7m.