Wireless equipment vendor Alvarion believes it has the answer to closing Britain's broadband divide -- a wireless ISP in a box.
Costing £20,000, the starter kit launched this week contains the equipment needed to set-up a fixed wireless network of up to 50 end users.
Alvarion believes the system will simplify the task of setting up a new Internet service provider, and could also be used by existing ISPs to extend their network coverage in broadband black spots. Rob Mortimer, Alvarion's UK sales director, said he hoped it would "kick-start wireless broadband Britain."
"There is a clear business model for wireless broadband which has been successfully adopted by new and incumbent operators across the globe," said Mortimer. "ISPs in the UK who are looking to avoid dependence on BT's last mile should seriously examine our offering."
The "ISP in a box" system will run in the 2.4GHz band, and should give each customer a connection of up to 1.4Mbps.
Based on a monthly fee of £50 and a £100 installation fee, Alvarion believes that the £20,000 price tag could be recouped in six months.
Potential operators would have to obtain a Telecommunications Act licence, and would also need to fund the cost of backhaul -- the connection between their network and the Internet. Alvarion estimates this will extend the break-even point to 12 months.
Given the limited rollout of BT's ADSL network and the cable networks of NTL and Telewest, wireless is seen as a vital way of extending broadband across the UK.
One UK company that many experts believe will play a big role in this scene is LocustWorld. Its Mesh technology can be used to set up a community wireless network at a cost of just £300 per node, and has attracted considerable interest from rural broadband pioneers.