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Middleton Broadband Campaigners in Leeds Hail Arrival of Virgin Media

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016 (1:48 pm) - Score 1,225
Middleton (Leeds) virgin media broadband and tv rollout

Campaigners in the residential suburb of Middleton (Leeds) are celebrating a second victory after Virgin Media deployed their 300Mbps cable (DOCSIS) broadband network into part of the area, which follows several years after a separate campaign encouraged BT to upgrade a local street cabinet.

The situation began all the way back in 2012 after locals initially petitioned both Virgin Media and BTOpenreach to deploy their faster broadband services into the area, although Virgin Media ruled that the roll-out would not be commercially viable and BT also rejected several cabinet upgrades for a similar reason.

Thankfully a campaign by local residents eventually enticed Openreach to roll-out a new ‘up to’ 80Mbps Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service to the previously non-viable cabinet 82, which managed to fill all of its available ports within the first 24 hours (here). Further work has since taken place to help accommodate more lines.

However the latest bit of good news is that Virgin Media have now also deployed their ultrafast cable broadband network into part of the area. You can see two of their new cream cabinets in the picture above, which includes one Multi-Service Access Node (MSAN) and a Power Cabinet side-by-side. The cream / grey colour helps to keep their internal electronics cool.

Carl Thomas, Fibre for Middleton Campaigner, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Since mid-2015, pre-dating even the official announcements of Project Lightning, Virgin Media began an initially very cautious build in the LS10 area. As of very early 2016 this build was pretty much completed – bar the New Forest Village estate due to cost and road adoption status. Approximately 10,500 premises.

Going forward to this month Virgin Media have completed build of primary cabinets for the estate and built out to some adopted streets with the plan being to build to other streets in the estate as and when they are adopted.

I’ve had some numbers bandied at me and, due to the quantity of block paving and the need to fully reinstate some pavements and highways to get fibre to where it needs to be, Virgin Media are going to be spending a considerable amount of money per home passed and will be taking a pretty long payback period on the project in this area. I suspect that the very high uptake of BT’s services hasn’t harmed the business case that’s been made.

In the space of 4 years we’ve gone from beseeching BT for something, anything, to being in a position where even G.fast will struggle to compete which is a massive transformation and a testament to both the appetite for higher speed broadband here and the willingness to pay. We have made amazing progress; I am grateful for this and grateful to all those residents, politicians and indeed the suppliers willing to invest in us that have made it happen.”

We don’t have a specific cost figure for Virgin Media’s deployment, although it’s said to involve a “7-figure sum“. Separately there’s also talk of a 1000Mbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP/H) provider deploying into part of the area later this year, although that hasn’t been confirmed and is understood to be dependent upon Ofcom’s future regulatory changes (here and here).

Sadly there are still some parts of Middleton that have yet to be covered by superfast broadband and part of that relates to the existence of so many unadopted roads, which are not maintainable at the public expense and this can make them very expensive to tackle when upgrading local infrastructure.

I very much hope our experiences become the rule, not the exception, wherever the costs and the expected uptake can justify the investment. While it’s never going to be an option everywhere in the country, competition is key to progress and competition will spur all players to do better,” said Carl.

It’s all a far cry from the local broadband speeds of 1-2Mbps that residents use to suffer.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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18 Responses
  1. Lee

    They’re grey, not cream.


    Nice one Virgin. BT failed these people.

  3. fastman

    Richard what utter rubbish

    • Richard Walton

      The houses have been there for a short time. Speeds were poor from day one. BT should have done more at the outset. Virgin have been cabling this and the adjacent area over recent months.☺

  4. karl

    Good to see Virgin taking the area seriously with multiple cabs rather than one that gets filled in 24 hours. Well done to Carl Thomas residents and Campaigners

    • Lee

      The Openreach cabinet wasn’t filled in 24 hours. The first line card was. It’s not that uncommon.

      Quite why Openreach don’t see how much registered interest there has been before makingn the cabinet live is beyond me.

    • Thanks, but no customers connect to either of those cabinets for broadband service and VM’s network is very different from BT’s and tends to rely on a number of cabinets at various distances from premises to serve any particular home.

      Quite possible for homes at the end of a cascade, at the edge of a serviced area, to connect to a cabinet then go through 2, 3 or even more cabinets before reaching the fibre node where the coaxial signal from homes is converted to optical and goes along fibre.

      The cabinets in the picture: one is for telephony services, it behaves like the equipment in an exchange, the other is the power supply cabinet. It puts a 24v DC, 60v AC or 90v AC current onto the coaxial network which is used to power the HFC cabinets, along with providing power to the MSAN via a more normal power cable.

    • karl

      Cabinets in the picture look like these to me…
      Telephone, TV and broadband

    • They’re way bigger than normal CATV cabinets and normal CATV cabinets don’t have a window for the electricity meter to be read.

      To be fair I’m also cheating. Here are the pavement markings for them.


    • karl

      Using the site you grabbed that image from…
      still looks like a multi cabinet job to me.

    • Ignition

      I am aware there are multiple cabinets. It’s my site, I took the pictures and I walk past 5 of them on a daily basis. 2 are those 2, 2 are large ‘cable’ cabinets for customer connections and optical nodes, 1 is a smaller coax only cabinet.

      If I walk the other way there are 2 smaller line extender cabinets. These have amplifier and splitter in them and are in preparation to take the coax feed from a larger cabinet, amplify it, and deliver it to streets that aren’t built yet.

      I have been in constant contact with VM as they have been building in the local area so have seen plans for the build.

      The CATV optical node is no more than 50m down the road from the two cabinets in the picture. It’s there ready to serve unadopted roads and sits near a junction.

      There are no properties to serve directly near these two cabinets. No point in having coaxial distribution network there so it’s just for power.

    • karl

      Again then, good to see Virgin taking the area seriously with multiple cabs rather than one that gets filled in 24 hours.

  5. Ignition

    TL;DR there are a number of cabinets there as each cabinet in a cable network serves far fewer homes than the BT PCP does.

    As far as I am aware each cable cabinet can take at most 48 connections under normal circumstances, 3×16 port tap banks. May be fewer depending on housing density – the odd cabinet has only a single 8 port tap bank.

    Cabinets can be upgraded with more tap banks if there is room and power budgets allow.

    The BT PCP has 550 homes connected to it.

    The issue with CATV is more the amount of premises passed per optical node – how many customers are sharing bandwidth. There is ample capacity on this network for the foreseeable future.


    • karl

      Interesting information, now you mention the smaller cabinets it makes me wonder now how virgin serve my road which has 152 homes in it and only a single small virgin cabinet (approx 3ft high by 2ft wide) the nearest large cabinets of virgins where i live (IE similar to the size of those pictured and similar to BTs FTTC cabs) is at the other end of town (probably about 2 miles or so away). Its the same story for many roads round here. Possibly different equipment entirely though as was cabled up well over 10+ years ago.

    • In some areas the amplifiers and taps are in pits underground rather than in cabinets which reduces the cabinet count considerably. Due to the individual franchises being built by different companies some used cabinets 100%, some put as much kit as possible underground and some did builds that were in between.

      Same basic kit just placed differently. Most of the kit was built to be put on top of poles or actually hang off the coax lines in between poles so it easily put underground.

      The way power is drawn can and does vary. The cabinet you describe may be a small power pedestal with perhaps an optical node and launch amplifier. Modern builds use power cabinets that power networks serving several hundred homes and include meters, older builds use a higher count of power pedestals servicing much smaller areas on fixed charge.

    • karl

      Have you got any images of the type of manhole or similar covers used for the underground installs 10+ years ago? Might have a further poke round my area to see what else i can spot which may be virgins 🙂

      oh and..
      ” Modern builds use power cabinets that power networks serving several hundred homes and include meters, older builds use a higher count of power pedestals servicing much smaller areas on fixed charge.”

      Any real advantage to the customer in having one system over the other (IE reliability, quality of broadbandspeed/phone/tv reception)?

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