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A new "long range" wireless broadband service could deliver fast and affordable Net access for people who live in areas currently not served by ADSL or cable if a trial in Essex proves successful.

The trial is funded with a £200,000 grant from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and will provide broadband for the whole of the Tendring District.

Initially, the trial involves 30 users but there are plans to extend the project to cover Colchester, Ipswich and parts of Suffolk.

The three-month trial is due to begin in the spring and local businesses and residents are currently being recruited to take part in the scheme.

The technology involved is a long-range wireless broadband system and is understood to be the first of its kind in the UK. A similar system is up and running in Dallas, Texas.

Using wireless broadcast technology, each mast has a range of up to 25 miles and can deliver speeds of up to 1.5Mbps.

Although pricing has yet to be finalised, those behind the trial expect installation and equipment costs to be no more than £200. Monthly wholesale fees per user is expected to be around £14.50, giving ISPs the chance to offer the service at competitive rates to BT's ADSL service.

If the trial in Tendring, and another one planned for the North West of England, prove successful, then a full commercial roll-out of the service could begin in 2004.

Those behind the technology say it is best suited to rural areas and edge-of-town developments. ®

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