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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 07:55 GMT 08:55 UK
Milton Keynes gets high speed net
Science Museum visitor looks at exhibit, Getty Images
The Science Museum uses Wimax at its store in Wiltshire
Milton Keynes looks set to become the first British town to get a high-speed wireless network based on so-called Wimax technology.

Net connection firm Pipex is to trial a network in the town, which should be up and running by the end of 2006.

Unlike wi-fi technology, Wimax offers high-speed net access over long distances, instead of just a few metres.

Pipex said it hoped to have Wimax deployed in eight UK towns by 2008.

Top speed

Wimax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) gives users access to the net at multi-megabit speeds over areas many kilometres in size.

Pipex said the Wimax network in Milton Keynes would be used to take broadband to those in the town that could not get it.

Although a relatively new town, high-speed broadband is not widely available in Milton Keynes because its telecommunications infrastructure was built with aluminium rather than copper cables.

More details of Pipex's plans would be available in four weeks, the company told Reuters.

Wimax has been touted as a rival to the wi-fi technology that is already used in thousands of hotspots around the world. Some also see it as a threat to the high-speed data services some mobile phone firms are starting to roll out.

So far Wimax is not widely used. Users need expensive hardware, and the specifications to use it in conjunction with other wireless technologies or to roam are not complete.

By contrast, wi-fi is built into increasing numbers of desktop computers, laptops and mobile phones. In the UK some cities such as Norwich are turning their wi-fi hotspots into mesh networks that give blanket access.

Mobile third-generation phone firms are also starting to deploy a technology called HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) which only requires a software upgrade to get working.

However, Wimax is starting to be used in isolated pockets around the country.

A firm called Urban Wimax started offering a high-speed Wimax net connection to firms in central London in March 2006.

The Science Museum became one of the UK's first users of the technology when it installed a Wimax network at its repository of exhibits in Wroughton, Wiltshire.

In the US, telecommunications firm Sprint recently announced that it plans to spend $3bn (1.6bn) building a national Wimax network.

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