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Virgin Media Moot Roll-out of Cable Broadband into North Swindon

Friday, June 3rd, 2016 (1:17 pm) - Score 938

The already complicated situation in North Swindon (Wiltshire, England) just became even more interesting after Virgin Media appeared to indicate that its ultrafast (up to 300Mbps) cable and fibre optic broadband network would also be expanding into additional parts of the area.

Lately North Swindon has become somewhat of a battleground for network operators, which kicked off last year after the local authority agreed to a controversial £1.9m state aid supported Broadband Delivery UK contract with UKB Networks. Under the deal UKBN would roll-out their “superfast” 24Mbps+ capable 4G fixed wireless network to 20,000 premises (13,000 in rural areas).

The deal was necessary because neither of the two big operators (BT and Virgin Media) had showed much of an interest in upgrading the local fixed line infrastructure, but it was later revealed that Virgin Media had seriously pondered an expansion of their cable network into the area and then scaled this back to a virtual standstill after the UKBN deal (here).

However the UKBN deal also triggered a political fight over the best solution to use, with some residents further complaining about the location of several proposed masts in the urban part of the town (representing about 7,000 premises). The related masts were ultimately rejected and alternative locations put forward (here), which look likely to be approved any time now. Sadly this will result in a small reduction to the overall coverage footprint of about 500 premises, but at least the roll-out has already started (here).

In the meantime BT has also selected Haydon Wick (North Swindon) and parts of the nearby Taw Hill area for their latest trial of “ultrafast” 330Mbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband technology (here) connectivity, which has so far been made available to 485 local premises; just about the same as UKBN’s predicted shortfall.

According to the Swindon Advertiser, Virgin Media have now also joined re-joined the party by sending out email notices to several residents in the Redhouse area who have previously expressed an interest in receiving the cable service.

We’re expanding our network. We’ll do all we can to connect your home so you can have supercharged entertainment, although every now and again we come up against an obstacle that stops us from doing so. But don’t worry, we always do our best to get around them,” said Virgin’s message.

The message itself uses typically non-committal language, although the newspaper claims that Virgin Media do intend to reveal some sort of detail on their plans for at least part of North Swindon within the next few weeks.

Justin Tomlinson, North Swindon MP, said:

“I am working with local councillors and residents while continuing to have extensive and detailed meetings with senior representatives of BT and Virgin.

I remain confident we will see quite significant investment right across the Northern Sector. We will continue to push for clear answers as quickly as possible.”

At this stage it’s not known if the local authority will delay final approval of UKBN’s revised mast plan until they’ve seen what Virgin Media intend to do, although this could risk creating a few complications for the existing contract.

Similarly a big question mark exists over precisely how big Virgin Media’s deployment could become and indeed an extensive roll-out would almost certainly create some issues for the UKBN deal because EU State Aid rules prevent extensive overbuilding (difficult to avoid with wireless networks), although equally they might be able to work something out so that the two are complementary.

In either case it looks like we’ll get an answer at some point over the next month or two, although political talk of a “significant investment” should be taken with a pinch of salt until we know what that actually means in practice.. if anything at all.

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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
5 Responses
  1. Jazzy says:

    I wish Virgin would make an announcement for Newcastle upon Tyne. I actually live 50 metres from a CATV manhole cover and green box but the cable runs north bound and they never did take a left hand turn into my housing estate, despite is being a completely private housing estate. I was told at the time that they would eventually come to my street but they never did (back when it was United Artists Cable TV).

    1. nedmusic71 says:

      Jazzy if your interested in Virgin Media please go to https://cablemystreet.virginmedia.com/#!/cablemystreet
      Register your interest and get others in your street to as well and this should speed the process up.

    2. Whitesnake says:

      I’m in Newcastle upon Tyne and Virgin have just cabled up where I live so there is ongoing expansion of their network.

    3. DTMark says:

      Years back we turned down one urban rental property at the last moment when it became apparent that the landlord, who owned the little square that the houses were in, had refused to allow Virgin to run their cable when they were deploying the network. Everyone else could get it apart from those four properties. We moved on and found somewhere else.

  2. Ignition says:

    They are only announcing larger builds and all-new builds. They are doing smaller in-fill builds all over the country.

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