TALLINN - Internet users in Estonia already enjoy a high level of wireless connectivity. Yet, with the launch of a broadband wireless network that will span over 70 percent of the country, their ability to access the Internet is set to increase dramatically. The Estonian National Communications Board this month put forward a tender for the operation of a broadband wireless service on the 450mhz band.
Because of its low frequency, the 450mhz band offers wide coverage at a relatively low cost, although its quality compared to other systems has been debated.
Several companies from Estonia and Russia have already expressed interest, some of which may be capable of launching their service by early 2007.
ENCB deputy director general Priit Soom said the new service would spread wireless access from the cities to the countryside.
"The main advantage will be to get Internet access for people who are living in rural areas. It's the cheapest way to get this service to them. I don't believe it will have an advantage in the cities, where we already have cable connections and wireless services operating," he stated.
The tender closes in early December, and Soom said the ability to quickly establish an operating service would be high on the criteria list.
Companies are required to offer services with a data transfer rate of above 144kb per second, reaching 70 percent of the country.
As well as desk and laptop computers, mobile phones would also have access to the benefits of wireless Internet access, Soom said.
Estonia already boasts a high level of Internet use: a recent survey found that 60 percent of people aged 6 's 74 use the Internet, and almost 40 percent of homes are connected to the Web.
The country has also developed an international reputation for its growing Internet-related industries.
One of the most high profile companies, the Web-based phone service Skype, welcomed the decision to implement widespread wireless broadband access.
"Wireless broadband access is spreading all over the world, and naturally this has a positive effect on online businesses as well as people using their services," a Skype spokesman said. "Not only does this add more things one can do with a computer, but this would make using wireless phones, smartphones and other devices much more attractive. This is certainly a development Skype and our partners warmly welcome."