NTT in Tokyo has announced plans to start the world's first public access wireless LAN network that allows users to connect using either the entrenched 802.11b protocol or the new, higher-speed 802.11a protocol.

If this works it could prove the both the trailblazer for projects throughout the world and the mould from which those future projects are cast.

NTT said it will launch its Hotspot public access wireless LAN service at about 200 Tokyo locations on 15 May, building up to 1,000 such areas by the year's end.

Rather ingeniously NTT will use its mobile phone masts to carry the service.

The intial costs for users look fairly low — NTT will charge a one-time application fee of 1,500 yen (around £8) and a monthly access fee of 1,600 yen (around £8.50) for service.

That's a bargain compared to similar services in the USA — Boingo Wireless in California, for example, charges $24.95 (around £17) per month for unlimited access on any 10 days in a month or a strapping $74.95 (around £51) per month for unlimited access every day. In its defence, the Boingo service is US-wide.

The number of public access wireless LAN nodes NTT plans to have in operation in Tokyo by year's end comes close to the roughly 1,200 access points currently in operation in the USA But it lags far behind the 25,000 planned for South Korea by year's end.