In what it believes to be the first trial of its kind, cable firm NTL will launch a free trial of a wireless broadband network in London within the next two weeks.

"This is a proof-of-concept trial. Because of that, there is no guarantee that this will become a commercial product," said NTL spokesman Malcolm Padley.

"This sort of network would work really well in rural communities, where it would be a lot cheaper than having to build infrastructures that don't already exist," Padley said.

The trial will be limited to four transmitters running the network at a frequency of 10GHz, according to NTL. This should allow data transfer rates of 512Kbps (kilobits per second) downstream and 128Kbps upstream per user. This is identical to the base ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) rates that UK residents currently receive.

NTL currently also has 2,300 mobile phone transmission towers across the UK from which such wireless broadband services could possibly be run, Padley said.

One thousand residential customers in the London areas of Gunnersbury, Wandsworth, Guy's Hospital, Shooter's Hill and Croydon will be given the equipment and hooked up to the wireless broadband network for free. In exchange, the participants are required to give regular feedback to NTL on the service, Padley said.

"They will be set up for free and can continue to use the service for free until mid-November or so. At that time they possibly have the option to then buy the equipment and pay for the service, but we haven't decided on that yet and we're not sure what the fees would be," Padley said.

The trial will conclude at the beginning of December. Want to sign up? Click here for more information.

Besides residing in particular London areas, participants in the trial are required to have an unobstructed view of one of the four NTL transmitter locations, and must have a PC that has Ethernet capabilities and uses Microsoft's Windows operating system (Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 Professional), NTL says.