The UK's first broadband radio access network went live in Cambridge last week.
The network has been built under a test and development licence by Adaptive Broadband, Olivetti & Oracle Research Laboratory (ORL) and Cambridge University.
It uses Adaptive's 25Mbps Internet access technology to provide "last mile" wireless connectivity to businesses around Cambridge.
"This kind of high-speed Internet access usually comes at a premium price," said a spokeswoman at Adaptive. "But with these new, low-cost wireless links, ISPs and new entrants to the telecoms market can offer services that will undercut the incumbent operators and reach the all-important last mile, as there is no need to dig up the road."
There is still one major hurdle in the way of wireless technology gaining any significant presence in the UK. The government and the regulatory bodies will not assign enough of the radio spectrum for commercial use.
"The government, the military and BT have large areas of the spectrum, that are largely unused, assigned to them and they don't want to give them up," said Peter Wharton, VP sales and marketing at Adaptive. "It's like owning land, nobody wants to give it up."
Wharton believes telecoms deregulation has failed in the UK. "BT still has 85% of that last mile of cable that enables it to throttle the nation and wireless is a threat that it does not want to see succeed."
ORL will use the AB-Access system as an extension of its corporate LAN, providing high bandwidth Internet access as well as multimedia applications such as video conferencing. Cell sites sit on the roof and communicate with subscriber terminals that operate in the 5GHz frequency band.
Cambridge University's laboratory of communications engineering will be testing the equipment. Other sites linked across the city include Adaptive's own offices and several residential addresses.
"We are already working with service providers in the US as the battle for the Internet access market hots up," said Wharton. "It's estimated that the market for point-to-multipoint systems, including narrowband, broadband, Local Multipoint Distribution Systems (LMDS) and satelitte will reach $2.4 billion (#1.4 billion) by 2001."
AB-ACCESS TECHNOLOGYCAMBRIDGE ASPIRES TO BECOMING
AB-Access is a wireless broadband technology which offers data rates over a point-to-multipoint radio link: currently 25Mbps operating in the 5GHz frequency band. Adaptive Broadband Limited combine Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and packet-on-demand bandwidth management, based on ATM technology.
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