BellSouth this week began offering broadband wireless service to areas of Athens, Ga.—including portions of the community where college students reside—as a commercial pilot of pre-WiMAX technology.

Known as BellSouth FastAccess Internet Service, the offering lets customers use a small, non-line-of-sight desktop subscriber modem or a local router to receive broadband signals transmitted by a pre-WiMAX network built with Navini Networks’ Ripwave equipment. Students who leave Athens for the summer can pay a “nominal” fee when they are out of town to maintain the account, so there is no need for an activation fee when they return to campus in the fall.

BellSouth previously has announced pre-WiMAX technical trials with Navini in Daytona, Fla., and Palatka, Fla., which have been successful enough that the carrier has decided to pursue commercial pilots, BellSouth spokeswoman Nadine Randall said. BellSouth will be conducting commercial pilots in Florida later this year, but Randall said those would not necessarily be in the same locations as the technical trials.

“Right now, we’re testing market demand,” Randall said. “In Athens, we’re testing the college market. In Florida, we’ll be testing the rural market where we can’t deploy our ADSL product.”