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WiMax may reach rural areas first

In a rare twist, a broadband technology may be launched out in the sticks before it reaches urbanites
Written by Dan Ilett, Contributor

BT may launch WiMax in rural areas ahead of cities following the success of its trials of the high-speed wireless technology.

The telco, which is on track to deliver 100 percent broadband coverage in Northern Ireland using ADSL and WiMax before the year is out, hinted on Wednesday that wireless broadband tests had gone so well that country dwellers across the UK could benefit from the technology before urban inhabitants.

"It's demand-driven, but we shall see," said Chet Patel, general manager for BT Retail Internet Access Products. "We've proved the technology in terms of what it can and cannot do and customer feedback has been very good."

BT's researchers took WiMax to four remote locations in the UK to test it in the most severe weather conditions over the most testing terrain. Seventy-three percent of wireless broadband users in rural areas expressed 'extreme satisfaction' with the service, although Patel said the results may not reflect the service accurately.

"That's to be expected though when you take broadband to them instead of their dial-up service," he said.

Patel added that BT's tests have not been without problems. "We've found out where you can deploy services," said Patel. "Just by lifting an antenna by two inches means it [the signal] can go further. Things like planning regulations and stuff that really seems trivial stops customers getting a service. It's those things that led us to roll out in Northern Ireland."

Around 5 percent of the UK population cannot currently get broadband, typically because they live in sparsely populated rural areas where it has not been economically viable for BT to upgrade their local exchange; a wireless technology such as WiMax is likely to be a more cost-effective option which could solve this problem.

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