British Telecommunications (BT) is testing a wireless broadband service in selected remote rural areas as it tries to "extend broadband services to many more communities".

BT Retail CEO Pierre Danon said: "BT is absolutely committed to our goal of 100 per cent broadband coverage for every UK community by 2005. We want to make broadband services available to everyone in the UK – whether they live in town centres or rural communities should be irrelevant. The benefits of broadband are extensive and we are working hard to make this target a reality.

"These trials enable us to test new, innovative technologies in a number of different environments and judge how well the technology works, so we are grateful to the people of Ballingry, Pwllheli, Porthleven and Campsie for agreeing to participate. Their experience could help BT and our partners to extend broadband and all its benefits to many more communities across the UK."

The wireless service is an attempt to fill gaps in service that are encountered in remote communities. Homes over 6km from an ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) exchange or near small exchanges that have not been ADSL-enabled have so far been unable to receive broadband service from BT.

'ADSL speed'

The trial offers access using a low-powered antenna on the outside of a house, connected by a cable to the user's PC. The system works using point-to-multipoint radio in the 5.8GHz spectrum to connect back to the exchange.

Users in Ballingry, Scotland; Pwllheli, Wales; Porthleven, England and Campsie, Northern Ireland, will test the service until March. The 105 users will have access to the Internet at speeds similar to ADSL access, BT said.

Any actual rollout of the services, however, will depend on Regional Development Agencies partnering with BT to cover the costs of setting up the service. BT does not expect the cost to end users to be higher than that for ADSL users, but the infrastructure costs will have to be covered.

Rural communities in the UK have long complained of BT's tardiness in offering broadband services. Read Macworld's exclusive subscriber-only feature, "The fight for broadband in Britain", which describes the different challenges some communities face getting such services, and several different strategies in operation that help meet the need.