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Milton Keynes to add Wireless broadband to the mix
Thursday 12 June 2003 10:40:00 by Andrew Ferguson

The Register reported a couple of days ago, that Milton Keynes Council is looking at Wireless Broadband for its 212,000 citizens. A pilot scheme for 200 users is in theory going to running later this month.

Milton Keynes is unusual as it has the highest recorded proportion of Internet users in the UK, but has very poor ADSL and cable modem service coverage. The cable network was one of the first in the country and suffers because of this, i.e. is too costly to upgrade. The ADSL service suffers from the amount of cheap aluminium used during the original PSTN roll-out and many areas are covered by TPON. BT's Donna Young is on record as saying current coverage in Milton Keynes is 70% for ADSL, though Steven Jewell, MK's head of IT claims it is less than half.

The wireless trial is set to be based on a 10GHz system with the mast located in the cities Linford Wood area and is aimed at covering an area that has no or poor access to ADSL currently. The trial is due to last four months, after which further roll-out will be looked into, and the commercial situation re-assessed.

Steven Jewell does have some odd things to say though on changes BT Wholesale are planning for ADSL though. Namely that in TPON areas that BT will be 'wrapping' the copper around the fibre cabling, we have checked with BT Wholesale on this and while copper cabling is going to be added to TPON areas, it will not be wrapped around the TPON fibres. Doing this would only increase the length of the copper run and actually reduce the chances of people getting a service. The second comment that is questionable is that BT is "looking at upping the signal strength to reach these users and those already linked by copper who are more than 5.5km from their nearest telephone exchange". This is very odd, we are aware of changes in the planning limits to take the approximate range for a 512kbps service from 5.5km to 6km, but this does not involve any changes to the ADSL signal or hardware at the exchange. It is possible that the comment is based around the fact that ADSL hardware will auto-negotiate when low level signals are detected and increase the output power to compensate. Allowing longer length lines may mean modems are pushing more signal power down the line, which explains the long trials as BT will be checking to ensure that cross-talk does not become an issue. If Steven Jewells figures are correct the coverage for Milton Keynes should rise to 93%, which may leave very little market for a wireless service.

People with TPON lines are possibly wondering when they will be able to actually get ADSL, the online checkers are often giving 'you may be able to receive ADSL' type messages currently. Unfortunately it would appear that the copper network expansion is not ready yet, as most orders people have placed have being rejected. No information from BT Wholesale on this yet, but if we obtain definite information we will be sure to pass it on.


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