PCCW planned to plough US$40 million into the commercial roll-out of its wireless broadband service in Britain next year, according to deputy chairman Jack So Chak-kwong. The roll-out follows a successful trial of PCCW's proprietary wireless fixed platform in 300,000 homes in west London. Having dubbed the service Netvigator, the Richard Li Tzar-kai-controlled telecommunications firm will clash with dominant telecoms operator BT and local cable firms while improving the poor penetration rate of broadband internet in Britain. 'We have drawn a very good response when putting the services on trial,' Mr So said yesterday. 'Our technology has been proven viable and we have decided to roll out the services in stages next year.' The first stage would involve the establishment of 60 base stations, with precise locations and a time frame yet to be finalised, he said. He added that a total of 900 base stations could eventually be established around Britain. Having spent US$40 million developing the project, Mr So said, PCCW would fork out another US$40 million on the commercial roll-out of the service. He declined to specify the project's total investment but some analysts have estimated it at US$1 billion. 'We'll review the numbers while rolling out the services,' Mr So said. 'As equipment gets cheaper and consumer demand gets stronger, the total project cost could be cheaper.' The wireless broadband service was made possible by PCCW's purchase last year of 15 British licences, allowing it to roll out a nationwide broadband network. PCCW has been salivating at the potential offered by Britain's nascent broadband market, in which a mere 11 per cent of households had access to broadband services last year, compared with about 55 per cent in Hong Kong. Analysts said the roll-out, if successful, could provide much-needed revenue to PCCW's fixed line division, which has seen revenues shrink over the past three years because of biting competition. Another potential revenue stream could flow from the redevelopment of PCCW's 80 telephone exchange buildings, which have an estimated total floor area of more than one million square feet. Mr So said that, while PCCW intended to redevelop only a proportion of the telephone exchanges, the company was in talks with the government over redevelopment. 'Before we make any decisions on the redevelopment, we need to come to an understanding with the government over a policy, which will state clear rules on change of land use and the calculation of land premium,' Mr So said. Analysts said PCCW could benefit from the recovery in the property market.