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Virgin Media UK Begins Rural FTTH Build in the Dun and Test Valley

Monday, Mar 12th, 2018 (11:36 am) - Score 1,211

Last year we revealed that a new community project with Virgin Media would extend the operator’s 350Mbps FTTH broadband and TV network to 12 small rural villages (around 4,000 premises) in the Test and Dun Valleys of Hampshire (England). Today the build phase has finally begun.

The development comes hot on the heels of some recent concern about the operator adopting a more cautious approach to their on-going Project Lightning expansion, although today’s announcement appears well timed to show that they can still cater for rural areas, albeit perhaps only in the right circumstances.

As we reported last year (here), the unique opportunity that local residents have stems from the fact that Virgin Media already owns an old cable duct along the Test Way, which is being used as a springboard to provide a “genuine all-fibre network” via their Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH/P) style infrastructure.

The villages that stand to benefit include Houghton, West Tytherley, Broughton, Wherwell, Winterslow, Firsdown, Michelmersh, Timsbury, Kings Somborne, Goodworth Clatford, Chilbolton and Stockbridge. Overall Virgin Media is expected to fund the bulk of construction costs (we believe it will cost about £20m) and this is being complemented by support from a local campaign.

The TVNeed4Speed campaign approached Virgin Media in 2016 and requested it bring its ultrafast broadband network to the area, where slow speeds over Openreach’s (BT) copper lines have often been a problem. Virgin then helped them confirm it was commercially viable by ensuring that local residents and businesses were committed to the initiative:

Key Criteria

* 30% or more of the residents (1,200 premises) had to register their interest;

* More than 1,000 local residents had to commit to take broadband services from Virgin Media. This was easily achieved with a 38% sign up across the valley, with some villages reaching a 78% sign up rate.

Work is now underway with completion expected by the end of 2019.

Rob Evans, MD of the Virgin Media Lightning Programme, said:

“We are extremely excited about our ultrafast broadband expansion in the Test and Dun Valleys – this is a new way of delivering our gigabit-ready network. This has been a brilliant example of us working hand in hand with the local community to deliver a solution which works for us both. We look forward to doing more of these in the future.”

Mel Kendal, Hampshire County Council, said:

“Access to superfast broadband for Hampshire homes and businesses is an important contributor to economic prosperity. Reaching more remote areas is a challenge, which is why we have specifically invested £1million in initiatives like the Community Match funding scheme to ensure this happens. The work of the Dun and Test Valley pilot and its community champions is very welcome indeed, demonstrating what can be achieved by residents working collaboratively to find effective broadband solutions in ‘hard to reach’ areas.

By next year, Hampshire’s Superfast Broadband Programme will have benefited from £12.9million of County Council investment, together with £16.4million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and £1.25 million from district councils – improving broadband connectivity to more than 100,000 premises and increasing coverage to 97.4% of Hampshire properties.”

The campaign group states that the building and groundworks has commenced in Chilbolton. Following on Stockbridge, Wherwell, Goodworth Clatford, Kings Somborne and then Michelmersh and Timsbury will be built during 2018. Phase 2, which consists of Houghton, Broughton, West Tytherley, Winterslow and Firsdown, will then be built during 2019 (the building of Phase 2 is not dependent on Phase 1 being complete).

Virgin Media will always be broadly more focused on urban than rural areas and the new roll-out is still considered to be somewhat of a ‘Proof of Concept‘ for the operator, not least with respect to their close community engagement and the subsidy. Nevertheless they “expect this to lead to similar community-backed projects across the UK,” so keep your eyes peeled.

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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Comments
3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Tim says:

    I hope that when they are done testing in Dun and Test (lol) that they roll this out to a lot more rural areas as it looks like Openreach have no interest in rolling our fibre.

  2. Avatar photo Fastman says:

    really !!!! so where are you are you not covered by BDUk

  3. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    Looks like there’s a publicity event and a single build in Chilbolton, with lots more roads currently being done in Goodworth Clatford and Stockbridge.

    Fullerton Road, Cottonworth, just off the B3420 looks like it’ll be where the virtual hub cabinet will be going, so likely feeding off the fibre run between Andover and Winchester.

    Not too massive of a diversion, however there are relatively few properties for the distance and they I imagine needed enough premises signed up to merit the not insignificant fibre spine run along the villages.

    Interestingly there’s BT spine work going on in the area. Having someone else rocking up can both improve the commercial case for the incumbent to build and potentially ensure focus for the general area as part of a BDUK project.

Comments are closed

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