Wireless broadband to help cover gap in rural France

Small business and residential users as far afield as the Pyrenees mountains in southern France could soon enjoy broadband connections thanks to a partnership between France Telecom SA (FT) and Alvarion Ltd.

FT has begun testing a new broadband wireless access system from Alvarion as part of the French carrier’s drive to bring high-speed Internet to most of France by 2005, the Tel Aviv, Israel, equipment vendor said Thursday in a statement.

In Loudenvielle, a remote village in the Pyrenees, FT is testing the wireless broadband technology in a local museum. Visitors can access the Internet from laptops as they move around the museum.

The Alvarion system is a point-to-multipoint technology that enables broadband service providers to connect users in remote areas relatively easily and cost efficiently, according to Alvarion. The system deployed in France uses very small aperture terminal (VSAT) satellite technology to backhaul traffic, it said.

FT expects wireless broadband access technologies such as Alvarion’s to help it extend service to areas where the terrain or distance makes it too expensive to deploy wireline infrastructure, said Valerie Martin, director of FT’s research and development laboratory in a statement.

Indeed, interest in low-cost wireless access technologies appears to be growing, as operators not only in developed countries seek to plug holes in their fixed-line Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) coverage, but also as developing nations search for ways to close the digital gap.

At a preliminary meeting in Paris this week of the World Summit on the Information Society, representatives from government, public and private sector groups are meeting to hash out objectives for the emerging digital world. Several nations at the meeting including India, El Salvador and Fiji requested language that specifically promotes the provision of broadband access to rural and remote areas.