Virgin Media to Trial Ultrafast Broadband over Telegraph Poles

Thursday, March 11th, 2010
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Berkshire village gets fibre optic broadband for the first timeMore than one million extra homes could benefit from speeds up to 100Mb

LONDON — Virgin Media (LSE:VMED) today announced a pioneering new trial using telegraph poles to deliver ultrafast 50Mb broadband to the Berkshire village of Woolhampton. By connecting homes directly to Virgin Media’s fibre optic network, the trial will effectively increase broadband speeds more than ten-fold* in a rural community that has previously relied on BT’s copper network. As well as ultrafast broadband, villagers will be offered Virgin Media’s TV service, including around 5,000 hours of catch up TV and on demand content. The trial will start this monthand is scheduled to run for approximately six months.

The trial is part of Virgin Media’s plans to bring next generation digital services to people who currently live beyond the reach of fibre optic networks. Virgin Media has already announced plans to extend its fibre optic network, which today passes 12.6 million homes, to 500,000 new homes and has identified more than one million homes in parts of the UK that stand to benefit from deployment over telegraph poles.

Neil Berkett, chief executive officer of Virgin Media, said: “This unique trial will allow us to understand the possibilities of aerial deployment and may provide an exciting new way to extend next generation broadband services. With everything from BBC iPlayer to YouTube increasingly demanding reliable ultrafast broadband speeds, we’re keen to ensure that all communities, in towns, cities and villages right across the UK, stand to benefit.”

The Government is currently considering a change to planning guidelines which is needed to enable large scale overhead deployment. In the meantime, the Woolhampton trial will provide valuable insight into the technical, operational and commercial viability of this type of solution and build on what Virgin Media has learned from a trial in Cornwall started in 2009. The Cornish trial brought next generation services to the villages of Hatt and Saltash by running underground fibre optic cable to BT’s local street cabinets. Virgin Media believes that using overhead poles as well as underground ducts could, in some cases, significantly improve the viability of delivering next generation digital services to rural communities and continues to explore a range of innovative solutions that could allow it to further increase coverage.

Initial analysis suggests that ‘non-traditional’ approaches of the kind being explored by Virgin Media could deliver next generation broadband to over one million homes up and down the UK without the need for government subsidy.