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Virgin Media’s 200Mbps Broadband to Cover 6 Big Leicestershire Villages

Thursday, December 10th, 2015 (1:12 pm) - Score 2,148
virgin media cable network street works

Cable operator Virgin Media has announced that their £3bn “Project Lightning” network expansion will use a mix of pure “Fibre to the Home” (FTTH/P) and DOCSIS technology to bring “ultrafast” broadband speeds of up to 200Mbps to 16,000 premises across six large villages in Leicestershire (England).

The project is working to extend the reach of Virgin’s hybrid-fibre and cable (EuroDOCSIS) network to another 4 million premises in predominantly urban areas by 2020 (17 million premises). In keeping with that nearly all of the villages being targeted in this latest phase are quite large (populations range from 3,500 in Cosby to 12,000 in Whetstone).

The Six Villages

Going Live Around Christmas

Going Live During Early 2016

At this point it’s interesting to note that Virgin Media are using an “innovative way of bringing ultrafast broadband to people’s homes with minimal disruption,” which is called narrow-trenching and this reduces the width of the trench used to lay optical fibre cables from around 40cm to just 10cm (i.e. enabling engineers to cover up to 100m in a day). The narrow-trenching approach, which shouldn’t be confused with micro-trenching (i.e. even smaller trenches), has actually been around for a few years.

Virgin states that residents will receive the “very latest broadband technology with fibre delivered direct to the home“, although they also claim that this “optical fibre broadband uses a unique technology called DOCSIS 3” (this is the normal ‘cable’ services).

What they mean above is that the line is fibre optic, but rather than Ethernet they use Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG) technology for a more familiar DOCSIS setup via the in-home environment, which is very similar to last year’s Papworth Everard trial (here).

Tom Mockridge, CEO of Virgin Media, said:

Expanding our network to villages such as Blaby and Enderby shows that Project Lightning is not just about building in big cities, we’re also investing to bring ultrafast broadband to towns and villages close to our existing network across the UK.

The innovative use of narrow-trenching means that we’ll be laying fibre optic cable all the way to customers’ doorsteps, future-proofing their homes for tomorrow’s connectivity and rolling out network more quickly. We hope that we can count on government and local authority support to use this technique in more parts of the UK.”

So far Virgin Media has confirmed a total of 250,000 premises for their Project Lightning roll-out plan and many more will follow over the coming years. Mind you Ofcom recently decided that the term “ultrafast” should only apply to 300Mbps+ connections (here), which isn’t yet set in stone but does make it harder for Virgin to claim the “ultrafast” crown at 200Mbps.

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18 Responses
  1. Avatar MikeW

    I’m not sure these are villages in any kind of sense of the word “rural”. The ONS considers them to all be part of the built-up area of Leicester, so they’re closer to being suburbs than anything else. And mostly covered by the commercial part of BT’s rollout.

    Nice to see though – because it gives an idea of the kind of place that VM will be targeting.

    • The word rural isn’t used Mike and they are classified as villages, although I’d agree with your sentiment since the definition for what a village should constitute has always been a bit flaky.

    • Avatar MikeW

      My comment was more against Tom’s quote: “VM isn’t just about big cities …”, yet in this case, the UK statistics office does indeed classify these particular villages as part of one of our big cities. At least by one manner of definition, anyway. I didn’t really want to use the word “rural” precisely because you hadn’t used it, but failed to come up with a good alternative.

      I happen to quite like the ONS manner of defining “built up areas”, at least for broadband purposes, because it models precisely where people cluster together to live – and it doesn’t care what political or administrative label has been given.

      I also like way it aggregates city/town/village into one “built-up area” when building & development work brings the separate urban/suburban landscapes into touching distance of each other. It reflect the real way in which people in the subsumed areas make use of the services of the ever-growing cities.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Given they’ve also built in Papworth it makes for good headlines.

      I can easily, easily imagine that VM will be building to a number of villages where they have core network running through, though, and less rural villages on the edges of urban conurbations.

      Some villages are cheaper per premises passed to build to than virtually every city. Densely clustered together groups of properties. In at least some cases where VM have duct running through the middle of these and CATV hubsites both in range and with capacity no doubt they’ll pass the properties.

  2. Avatar Max

    Minimal disruption ?

    I drive through Countesthorpe everyday, it looks like a bomb site !. They’ve closed several roads during rush hour, majority of all the main paths have plastic fencing all the way down them, many peoples driveways are getting blocked and so on. I mean, it’s great that they’re getting fiber and 200Mbps and I know the work has to be done, but the work is still *very* disruptive.

    • Avatar JamesM

      and yet they will have an anti climax when they try to use it. as everyone else does

    • Avatar Ignition

      I’ll pass that on to the people near me who’ve received it as part of the first 9,000 premises covered in Leeds and, for whatever reason, seem happy with their service. In one guy’s case delighted having gone from 1.5Mb to 200Mb.

      Clearly they’re missing something. That or the new builds are of a higher quality, have more bandwidth per premises passed and are easier to upgrade bandwidth on than the older ones.

      Which they are. The nodes aren’t large and are easy to split, and they are full 1.2GHz DOCSIS 3.0 subsplit, with field replaceable module upgrade to DOCSIS 3.1.

      Google it.

    • Avatar MikeW

      You’d imagine that any cable network built nowadays is done with everything prepared to make future splits relatively painless. There’s no point putting anything in the streets if it is going to start congested, and not be able to be managed out of congestion when it does happen.

      You’d hope it could be done about as painlessly as when Openreach need to add a new card to an FTTC cabinet.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Sadly not possible for it to be that simple. There’s always going to be at least some physical intervention needed as there’s a requirement to repatch to new ports. This assumes that only logical work is needed to actually split the node in the field, IE it’s running using DWDM or already has multiple fibre pairs feeding it which are combined at the hubsite.

  3. Avatar Bob

    How about bringing VM to a city?! Canterbury could benefit from an alternative to BT!

    • Avatar Bob2002

      VM aren’t interested in having to put much effort into their expansion as far as geographical distance goes. Exeter has VM but Exmouth, 34,000 people – the 5th most populous settlement in Devon – will not get anything from this rollout.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Live in Exmouth or know someone who does, Bob?

      You do know this programme runs until the end of the decade and is a matter of months in, right?

      VM are going to tackle the easier stuff when they are ramping up, infill and areas close to their existing cable network.

      After that they are going to be branching out.

      Whether they end up doing Exmouth or not I’ve no idea however doing 2/3rds of premises means, obviously, that 1/3rd won’t be. That 1/3rd will for the most part be in towns and cities with no existing network as it’s so much cheaper to infill than build entirely greenfield.

      VM want to actually make money out of this build. Having to build new hubs and long fibre runs ups the costs and may tip the scale away from being viable.

      Nothing to do with effort; it frankly seems childish to be behaving like you’re entitled to cable but not getting it purely because a private company aren’t interested in putting in the effort. If they think Exmouth meets the business case they’ll build there, just as they are going to be building to a few entirely new towns/cities over the course of the next couple of years…. despite it requiring some ‘effort’ as far as geographical distance goes.

    • Avatar Ignition

      @Bob without the numbers…

      I can imagine few places worse to dig than Canterbury. Loads of conservation areas and listed buildings. Probably a nightmare of a group of residents to please as far as the building and reinstatement go too.

      Yes, it’s a city, but because it has a cathedral, not because it’s especially large or densely populated. There are a whole bunch of bigger towns that would be far less painful and costly to build in.

      Wouldn’t hold your breath. Not impossible but I really wouldn’t hold your breath.

      Sorry to be so grim.

    • Avatar Bob2002


      > it frankly seems childish to be behaving like you’re entitled to cable

      What I know is that VM have stated they will not expand to Exmouth, secondly I do not believe I’m “entitled” to cable I was simply underlining the fact that despite all the publicity rollouts like this get, and the hope it generates, they are still about pounds and pence.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Plans are only in place until 2017-2018 while build is until the end of the decade with potentially future phases.

      Neither Exmouth or Canterbury would be a priority, though, when places like Milton Keynes with nearly 250,000 people and no active cable system and hundreds of thousands of premises of infill are there to do.

      It’s always going to be about pounds and pence. Covering 2/3rds of the population leaves 1/3rd uncovered. With the amount of premises available to infill and larger towns to build greenfield a 34,000 population town isn’t going to be a ‘priority’ for extension, sadly.

    • Avatar MikeW

      In terms of population-size of built-up-areas, Canterbury (55,000 residents) is at the 67th percentile and Exmouth (34,000 residents) is at the 71st percentile. They’re very borderline for VM’s rollout.

      Leicester itself (509,000 residents), including the villages in this story, is at the 38th percentile.

  4. Avatar Chris C

    Some of those places listed are more like towns than villages, I dont know the official classification but Narborough is quite a big place as is Blaby.

    • Avatar Simon

      Narborough was over 8,000 back in 2001.

      No way can you describe the place as a village, even market town is pushing it.

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