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Virgin Media Expand UK Network to Cambridgeshire Village, But is it FTTP?

Friday, Aug 8th, 2014 (12:45 pm) - Score 3,447

Virgin Media has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that a “small-scale development” is currently underway and in the “early stages” of expanding superfast broadband and TV (but not phone) services into the large village of Papworth Everard near the city of Cambridge, but will it be a 152Mbps coax (DOCSIS) or 300Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network?

The development, which follows hot on the heels of Virgin Media’s new plan to cover an additional 100,000 premises in East London (here), is in fact one of several new and non-London developments that we’ve recently queried with Virgin, but the operator has so far chosen not to say anything of substance in reply.

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Papworth Everard has a population of around 3,000 and is perhaps unique among most villages because Virgin Media’s infrastructure already passes through the area, although until now locals haven’t been able to directly benefit and previously there were no plans to deploy anything. Instead locals have been getting broadband via the remote Papworth St Agnes telephone exchange and some should just be within reach of FTTC.

Never the less residents last year began a campaign to improve local connectivity and now some have noticed Virgin Media engineers are at the end of their drives digging the road up, building new grey boxes around the area and laying green pipes for cables. A query by one such individual extracted the following response.

Virgin Media’s Engineer Team

Thank you for your enquiry to cable my street.

Varrier Jones Drive is part of an active project to bring Virgin Media services to Papworth Everard.

Your street will be one of the first to receive our broadband and TV services and we hope to be in a position to schedule an order early October. Regrettably our telephone services will not be provided.

We will be carrying out a PR campaign during the next few weeks and hopefully this will help with any questions you have, however please do not hesitate in contacting us back for assistance.

Kindest regards

Alison

The lack of a phone service is interesting because, despite coming into homes via a separate cable on Virgin’s setup, most would still normally expect such a line to be provided as standard (especially as most of Virgin’s TV bundles are triple-play). Interestingly when one of the residents asked what the engineers were doing, the reply came back that a Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network offering speeds of up to 300Mbps was being built and would be live within 6-8 weeks time.

ISPreview.co.uk has heard a bundle of reports about FTTP /FTTLA solutions being rolled out by Virgin in specific areas over the past few weeks and, aside from a 2010 FTTH trial in Woolhampton (here), the only firm reply we’ve ever been able to secure is that “we’re always looking at new things and trialling new approaches“. At the same time it’s curious that FTTP with a speed of 300Mbps would be used, which appears to mirror BT’s own GPON based FTTP service.

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In this instance Virgin chose not to directly answer our questions about the technology being deployed (you’d expect them to say if it was DOCSIS, so this in itself is a bit odd) and instead said, “when we are closer to homes actually being serviceable we’ll have further details for you“. We pressed them on the FTTP aspect a second time but have had no reply.

At this point we’d like to stress that the fibre optic cables could just be for the capacity supply, since Virgin’s DOCSIS / FTTN is setup a bit like FTTC, but the engineers description appears to be quite specific and at odds with that of a normal hybrid fibre approach. The service might also be a new approach similar to BT’s FTTrn/dp. Either way Virgin Media aren’t merely expanding their network in urban areas.

Incidentally the work itself is being carried out by John Henry Communications.

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Mark-Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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