BT has yet another scheme up its sleeve to bring broadband to outlying areas where the company has deemed it not commercially viable to upgrade local exchanges for ADSL. It will launch a trial, which will be partially financed by a sponsoring body, in autumn.

The idea is that an organisation with an interest in upgrading a remote exchange to broadband would part finance the scheme. The sponsors chosen for the trial scheme are Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which has already offered grants to local users to allow them to install satellite broadband from both BT and Aramiska; Gwynedd and Denbighshire County Councils; IT consultants The ITC (UK); the East of England Development Council; the New Forest Business Partnership; and Omagh District Council.

Sponsoring bodies will team up with a broadband provider of their choice to assess demand, source funding and deliver the service. The sponsor would pay £7,000 towards the trial of each broadband ADSL exchange, which supports up to 16 users. BT is financing some of the costs of adapting the exchanges, but would not tell us how much of the expense it is meeting.

But this £7,000 would only cover the cost of the six months duration of the trial, after this point the cost of continuation of the service has not been set, indeed BT may choose not to continue to offer broadband in some areas once the trial is complete.

"We are using the trial to look at the costings and the technology, to see if we can go ahead with this as a commercial project, but we can't prejudge this", explains David Orr, head of media relations for BT Wholesale.

Orr was keen to point out that if the trial were to go commercial, no inference about pricing could be drawn from the £7,000 figure. This is based on the duration of the trial and if such projects were to be brought to customers then they would be run over a longer period of time, which would affect the pricing.

The trial uses new ADSL exchange equipment which, rather than fully upgrading the exchange, relies on existing transmission links to BT's internet backbone, and as such can be deployed to much smaller groups of people. The service, which offers full-speed ADSL, can be provided to up to 16 end users linking to a single broadband provider.