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7,000 Swindon Premises to Benefit from Virgin Media Cable Expansion

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016 (12:50 pm) - Score 1,501

Earlier this month reports claimed (here) that cable operator Virgin Media were on the verge of announcing a major expansion of their 300Mbps broadband and TV network into parts of North Swindon (Wiltshire), where a state aid supported wireless network is deploying, and it’s now been confirmed that 7,000 premises will benefit.

The situation in Swindon is particularly tedious because of the local authority’s controversial £1.9m state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK contract with UKB Networks, which is rolling out a “superfast” 24Mbps+ capable 4G fixed wireless network to 19,500 premises (13,000 in rural areas) in the same area.

Originally the local authority claimed that the deal was necessary because neither of the two big operators (BT and Virgin Media) had allegedly showed much of an interest in upgrading the local fixed line infrastructure, although this was before Virgin went public with their major £3bn Project Lightning expansion last year.

Since then local opposition has only forced a small reduction in UKB Networks roll-out plan and BT has also nearly completed a roll-out of their own “ultrafast” Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology, which is focused upon around 500 premises in the Haydon Wick (North Swindon) and nearby Taw Hill areas (here).

Meanwhile Virgin Media has joined with local residents to argue that state funding should not be used in areas where private investment can deliver and in keeping with that they’ve today confirmed a plan to expand their network to another 7,000 premises in the town (Virgin already cover around 65,000). Once again this will be made up of Virgin’s own pure fibre optic FTTP technology.

Paul Buttery, COO of Virgin Media, said:

“The calls from residents in Swindon for better, faster broadband have been heard and Virgin Media will soon be bringing our ultrafast connectivity and top-notch entertainment to more parts of the town

This investment demonstrates that under Project Lightning Virgin Media will build to areas which no other fixed broadband provider has previously been able to connect. Given that public funding has been used in some areas of Swindon to fund a mobile broadband solution, it’s vital that local authorities properly assess the prospect of private investment before using taxpayer’s money to fund broadband rollout.

We urge more communities to come together and register their interest. Your area could be connected next.”

Cllr Toby Elliott, Cabinet Member for Broadband, said:

“Residents and businesses across the town have been calling for this quality, high speed, fibre broadband for some time. Justin Tomlinson MP, the ward Councillors and myself have worked with Virgin Media for over a year to deliver this and I couldn’t be more delighted about their investment in Swindon.”

Apparently the work will start in the next two months and should then be completed in early 2017. Interestingly a “significant part” of the build will take place in North West Swindon, covering the Haydon, Priory Vale and Blunsdon St Andrew areas. Network gaps will also be filled throughout Swindon in areas including Greenmeadow, Old Town, Toothill and Eastleaze.

According to Buttery, Virgin has spent the last year and a half speaking with residents and negotiating with local councillors in order to try and get certain areas removed from the state aid scheme so that they could then extend their own commercial network (saving tax payers money, which could be used elsewhere), albeit without much success.

Instead the operator appears to be playing hard-ball and have decided to extend their network anyway, which could dent UKBN’s own service by reducing the number of potential subscribers. Buttery said, “It was clear that something needed to be done. We didn’t feel that it was right for residents not to receive the sort of connectivity they deserved and demanded, particularly when the expansion ticks all of the right boxes.”

Suddenly North Swindon is about to benefit from a lot more competition than it bargained for, which can only be a good thing for consumers.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. wirelesspacman says:

    “Suddenly North Swindon is about to benefit from a lot more competition than it bargained for, which can only be a good thing for consumers”

    In my mind it really shows the porkies that the big operators have been coming out with in the Open Market Reviews “knowing” that they could then bid for huge amounts of free money to do what they would have done anyway.

    1. Ignition says:

      VM weren’t aware themselves that they would be doing Project Lightning when the OMRs were being returned.

      At that kind of time VM were planning on using Openreach’s FTTC network. Liberty Global canned that in 2014 and provided a few billion quid to build cable last year.

  2. sentup.custard says:

    (Council meeting…)
    “OK, let’s push this wireless network through – judging by their other attempts it probably won’t be much good, but if we back it then BT and Virgin will get upset and decide that, all of a sudden, North Swindon has become commercially viable.”

    Yeah, OK, I’m a cynic with a twisted mind – politicians would never really do something like that, would they?
    😉

    1. SH says:

      Nooooo never 😉

      I’m keen to see if (council leader) David Renard et al now finally STOP trying to push this 4G LTE cr*p down our throats, and encourage UKBN to focus their efforts elsewhere (ie rural areas).

      Thankfully councillors local to the area are a bit more intelligent than the ones heading u this project, and have been helping locals fight it.

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