Virgin Media Confirms Talks To Expand Network

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Utility companies will help Virgin Media expand its fibre network

Virgin Media has confirmed that it is talking with utility companies to expand the UK footprint of its fibre optic network.

“Our existing cable network reaches approximately 12.7 million homes in the UK, which is a little over 50 percent of UK homes,” a Virgin Media spokesman told eWEEK Europe UK. He pointed to the announcement by Virgin Media back in March when it said it was beginning a new trial using telegraph poles to deliver ultrafast 50Mbps broadband to the Berkshire village of Woolhampton.

By connecting homes directly to Virgin Media’s fibre optic network, the operator said the trial would increase broadband speeds more than ten-fold in a rural community that had previously relied on BT’s copper network.

Airborne Fibre

“What we wanted to do there was to conduct a proof of concept trial of running fibre from the ground, up our own telegraph poles, so that we could look at the economic viability of deploying fibre to home. That trial in Woolhampton has worked very well, and we are delivering a complete Virgin Media service including HS television, with this trial” said the spokesman.

“In America for example, you often see telegraph cables carrying coaxial cables which can look very messy, but with this fibre deployment we use splitters etc and it looks like a regular telephone cable,” he said. “We think one million homes could benefit from this type of airborne fibre deployment.”

Virgin Media has already announced plans to extend its fibre optic network to 500,000 new homes.

The Virgin Media spokesman said it is talking with utility suppliers after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt set out the government’s vision earlier this month for providing the UK with superfast broadband. Hunt said at that time that if necessary, he would resort to legislation so that utility companies opened up their assets so that superfast broadband could be delivered.

“Conversations are ongoing, not necessarily just between us and electricity companies,” said the spokesman. “Discussions are ongoing with various infrastructure providers and we are talking to as many different people as possible.”

Government Action

However the spokesman was clear that Virgin Media is looking to the Government to make sure the path is open for it to invest in a fibre rollout in this way.

“The gauntlet, as it were, has been thrown down to the Government to improve the landscape so that we and others can invest. We are saying to the Government, you need to help us to do this,” the Virgin Media spokesman told eWEEK Europe UK. “We are open to trying new things, but we need your assistance.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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