Wired broadband solutions so tightly clutched to British Telecommunications PLC's breast may no longer be the future of home Internet access. One of Europe's leading research laboratories, the AT&T Corp. labs in Cambridge, England, has teamed up with Cambridge Broadband to test a pioneering broadband wireless network in the area.
Cambridge Broadband hopes the experiment will prove fixed wireless is the answer to low-cost broadband.
"This is the final piece of the puzzle that has the potential to transform the telecommunications landscape," said Peter Wharton, head of Cambridge Broadband.
The deployment will be monitored by AT&T as part of an on-going investigation into the effects of high-speed access upon working patterns and the applications people want.
Telco watchdog Oftel has come under fire from the government over its slow handling of the local loop unbundling. Wireless has been touted as a possible alternative.
"We are currently opening up high-speed access to the public - time is a priority," said a spokesperson at Oftel. "Anything which reduces costs and provides a faster service to users is definitely worth testing."
Standard wired DSL (digital subscriber line) broadband Internet access in the UK is the most expensive in the world, according to DSL research group Point Topic.
According to the company's DSL Worldwide Directory 5.6 million people worldwide use some kind of DSL Internet connection, but only 38,000 of these live in the UK.
Not only does the number of DSL users in the UK fall way down the worldwide list, it is also far behind that of most European companies. In part, this is due to DSL's pricing, but availability is also an issue.
In Germany, installing and using a DSL line costs around £33 per month; in France it's slightly higher at £48. However, in the UK people can pay between £53 and £60 plus installation. Some companies such as Telewest charge less than the average in the UK, but this DSL is provided over cable, not phone lines.