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Virgin Media UK Tests New Camouflage for Broadband Cabinets UPDATE

Saturday, November 17th, 2018 (8:01 am) - Score 14,288
virgin media uk street cabinet camouflage

Cable ISP Virgin Media has teamed up with a development of new build houses in the Tees Valley area (Wynyard Park) and a graphic design firm (Shutter Media), which has enabled them to create a series of disguises that will be wrapped around 16 of their ultrafast broadband supplying street cabinets.

The tactic of disguising street cabinets by painting them a different colour or wrapping them in a special vinyl-based pattern (i.e. to match their surroundings) has been used before (Openreach and KCOM do it and Virgin Media have done a few too). But lately the designs have become more complex, thanks in part to modern printing and paint techniques.

In this case the Wynyard Park development spans 885 acres and sits in a rural setting. As a result the developer appears to have gone the extra mile in trying to conceal local infrastructure among the surrounding greenery. This has meant wrapping Virgin Media’s cabinets in detailed designs like the woodlands stag setting pictured above, while others will be made to look like brick or rendering etc.

Craig Pinder, Wynyard Park Development Manager, said:

“I saw an opportunity to add a bit of imagination and colour to some of the cabinets that have to be installed as part of the infrastructure and that’s when we decided to wrap the initial two.

The residents’ garden is a nice, relaxing area adjoining some of our woodland. We wanted residents and guests to focus on the beauty of the garden rather than the cabinets.

The new graphics will certainly add a unique feel to the estate. We get people stopping and taking photos with the first two boxes we trialled.”

Apparently more than 16 cabinets in the area may eventually benefit from the co-funded pilot and their popularity has meant that Shutter Media are already expanding, with several street cabinets in Manchester and London also receiving the same treatment.

Vinyl is used because it adheres to galvanised steel and the graphics can then be painted onto that with latex, which is then given UVA protection. The wraps themselves have a 7-10 year lifespan, so they may eventually start to fade and need to be re-done.

Nevertheless it’s quite a nice piece of work and there are certainly a lot of areas that could benefit from this, although there is an extra cost attached and thus most street cabinets tend to stick with the more familiar dark green or cream colours.

UPDATE 20th Nov 2018

We’ve also got a picture of the brick wall wrap being used.

virgin media cabinet wall camo vinly wrap

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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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39 Responses
  1. Joe

    Stopping Bt putting those ugly ‘Fibre is here’ purple/white stickers on otherwise green cabinets would be a start!

    • Fastman

      Joe do you have anything positive to say about openreach as I can’t find anything

    • Joe

      Not a lot fastman. BT/OR has held back better BB in the UK.

      But try sticking on topic. Green cabinets are generally the least worth option we have atm. Trying to camouflage them is a good thing. Sticking gastly stickers on them – in AONBs and even next to listed buildings has repeatedly happened.

    • StevenNT

      If meddling by Thatcher in 1990 didn’t occur it could well have been a different story. She blocked BT (which was still largely sate owned at the time) from rolling out fibre to replace the copper network as it was deemed “unfair” to the new Regional cable cos who were setting up shop here. So rather than doing something sensible and logical like perhaps making BT share the tech with the new rivals she simply pulled the plug and it was closed before it could really start. Her short sightedness and stupidity got us to where we are now. In a way don’t blame what is now Openreach for not rushing too quickly they got screwed over once before. It’s quite amusing when some Tory MPs moan about slow broadband seem to forget that a certain Tory PM in 1990 killed before it could even start.

      That’s the summery but you can see the whole story in the link below.

      https://www.techradar.com/news/world-of-tech/how-the-uk-lost-the-broadband-race-in-1990-1224784

    • Fastman

      joe hhhmmm BT/OR has held back better BB in the UK – really .

      Openreach has spend > 4.5bn of its own money and thats held back the Uk — , who else has spent anything ?

    • joseph

      “If meddling by Thatcher in 1990…”

      Yes because what happened neigh on 30 years ago has everything to do with what has NOT been done since then. Sounds like some snowflake that blames the past for the present and future.

  2. EndlessWaves

    I’m not sure a biscuit box graphic is particularly appropriate for a rural setting.

    On the other hand if it’s anything like the modern rural developments around here it’s a wholesale slice of the city that bears no relation to normal rural living and such a graphic would fit right in.

  3. Peter

    Where is this cabinet? Is it behind that fabulously horned stag?

  4. JoLangb

    You may need to make cabinets with stag design bullet proof, as idiots with shot guns often even pepper deer-warning road signs using them as target practice !

  5. Richard Lee

    Maybe they should spend their money on a more reliable network that keeps consistent speeds.

  6. Matt

    Not such a good idea when you walk Into one!

  7. James

    I think VM should concentrate on giving the broadband speeds that we are paying for before venturing into other project. VM have all the potential to leave the competition dead in the water but they keep dragging behind

    • Simon

      Indeed – like we car what colour the cabs are.

    • CarlT

      I must’ve missed all these other providers offering more than the distance-limited up to 76Mb that FTTC delivers. Seem to be 12 million+ properties where VM is over 4 times faster on the download than anyone else.

      Over 95% of VM customers receive their full speed at peak times.

      Sorry your service isn’t up to scratch but you are the exception, not the rule. For everyone in your local area with issues there are 19 people for whom performance is just fine.

  8. Optimist

    How appropriate of Virgin to remind customers how deer their products are.

    Right, I’ll get me coat…

  9. Simon

    Give the yobs around here something else to draw on – we had a community edible garden that ended up being removed as people were pissing on it – so in this area don’t waste your cash.

  10. Neb

    How much does it cost per cabinet such as the one in the photo to get these vinyls done?

    • Joe

      You can get a car bonnet done for £100-200 (depending on colours). At scale it probably won’t cost them that much.

  11. CarlT

    Most of these comments are pretty depressing.

    A company does something, co-funded by a third party, to reduce the aesthetic impact of their street furniture and all many can do is complain like the money for this and for business as usual upgrades or even higher speeds are the same budget.

    Lightning and associated things like this in no way impact on existing network upgrade: completely separate budget. VM doing this isn’t delaying DOCSIS 3.1 or faster 3.0 tiers.

    These cabinet wraps are going to be the exception, not the rule. Chav-infested areas where the locals routinely spray paint street furniture are unlikely to see it wrapped like this.

  12. Meadmodj

    Legacy Cable TV and then FTTC imposed technical limitations and we have had a proliferation of powered and un-powered cabinets. In condensed urban this can be a real problem on pavements and many councils simply didn’t realise the size of some of them.

    I was hoping to look forward to a Fibre world where the need for these cabinets would be eliminated and existing ones removed eventually, but apparently not with providers planning yet more.

    If providers must have them with FTTP there should be no technical barrier preventing the sensitive positioning of new cabinets. If you need to camouflage them then surely that indicates failure. Most power sub stations are hidden so why can’t comms (including mobile). If it means purchasing land then so be it as there is little room left on our pavements and small grassed areas.

    • Joe

      Fib can be done with far fewer cabinets than copper or G.fast. In the medium->longer term we should see a reduction in them…but in the short term when we have two networks running side by side it will increase.

    • CarlT

      Substations feed rather more premises than many access network cabinets. There are tens of thousands of VM cabinets. Where do you propose these all go? To be rid of the cabinets needs the kit to go underground or on poles, or for VM to replace with FTTP. Who pays for this?

      No doubt cabinet count will reduce. We’re just in a transition period between copper and fibre.

      Trust me, I empathise with what you’re saying. We’re fed by Hunslet 82 which has a picture on this very site. It’s a mess, and that’s ignoring the three cable cabinets on the other side of the main road and the one down the side road.

    • Meadmodj

      Appreciate that but with overbuild?. I would prefer none. OR appear to be the only provider keeping to text book GPON and laying Fibre with optical splitters all the way from the exchange to the premise. Hyperoptic are currently losing their kit inside the buildings but as they and others expand no doubt they too will require cabinets. So I can only see it getting worse with Gigaclear, VM and others all in the same streets when most of the “prime” cabinet locations already occupied by FTTC. So until FTTC finally dies which is at least 15 years away we much progress in their reduction.

      Also infers “Full Fibre” may be dependent on power hungry equipment corroding in street cabinets. Not an issue early days, but it will long term. One expects it with FTTC but that was always assumed a stop gap. Changing cabinet equipment may mean temporary change over cabinets with associated roadworks etc. I just think that with the lengths achievable with fibre it is unnecessary.

    • CarlT

      Using cabinets or remote nodes to house OLTs isn’t uncommon. On VM FTTP networks there’s only a single powered cabinet per 3,000 premises passed, the rest are passive.

      Point to point fibre networks pass fewer premises with the same space so need either street-side cabinets or buildings and long, long fibre runs.

      Openreach are doing it as they are because they have real estate there already along with chambers and poles to mount splitters and other kit. VM and cable networks generally are actually moving more intelligence into street-side cabinets rather than withdrawing it to central sites.

      There haven’t been issues with corrosion of network components other than perhaps coaxial connectors and even those can be built to not corrode. It’s not a big problem.

      FTTP street furniture is lower in quantity than hybrid networks and, apart from the one powered cabinet feeding thousands of properties in the case of PON and hundreds in the case of PtP which also needs no further cabinets at all after that let alone powered ones, has far less need for active electronics in the field.

    • Steve Jones

      @CarlIT

      In the area I used to live, none of the Virgin cabinets were passive. Every single cabinet included a piece of powered (active) equipment. However, they weren’t all connected to the mains. There were special power cabinets (identical from the outside) and these had mains connections and produced contained a switched-mode power supply distributing lower voltage to a number of other nodes.

      I was able to take photos of the insides of an example of both as the local vandals levered the doors open. The power cabinet had a lump of board in the back to which were screwed fairly standard mains installation items, some of which you might find in a normal domestic distribution, such as the line-fuse, electric meter, isolating switches as well as the switched-mode power supply. It contained no communications components.

      The other cabinets all contained a die-cast waterproof communications node connected to fibre, incoming power (low voltage) and the connections to the co-axial loops.

      Somewhere I have photos of the insides of these cabinets.

      Just because a cabinet isn’t mains powered doesn’t mean it’s passive.

    • Steve Jones

      Apologies – I now see you were referring to their FTTP installs.

    • CarlT

      Correct. On HFC networks the power is injected via a cabinet which may also have an optical node in it and rides along coax to the other cabinets in the nodal area. They each split power from RF, take what they need and re-inject the power after amplifying the RF signal, though they can also have separate coax and RF feeds though that does

      CATV networks start the RF at 5 MHz to leave a bit of room between the DC supply and the RF for easier filtering, however you can see the RF products of the power feed in the spectrum.

      If you check out a VM return path the 6.4 MHz wide carriers start no lower than 18.6 MHz to avoid the worst of the RF products from the power supply and on most networks don’t start until 22.6. On some networks they also intentionally have the lowest upload channel use 16QAM rather than 64.

      Obviously some newer networks also have the power running over its own coax. The cabinet feeding me is that way, it has 2 coax in and 2 out, 1 each for RF and power.

    • CarlT

      Just another point: you mentioned connection to fibre in every cabinet which isn’t the case. The vast majority of HFC cabinets don’t have fibre. In the case of this one the fibre is either at the power cabinet or at the cabinet just down the road from it, LLR4 or LLR401. From there it’s all coax, fibre per 500 premises passed.

  13. Michael V

    This is what they do in Dublin, I’ve seen ones with really good designed graffiti style too. For years I’ve been hoping someone would start doing this in Britain.

  14. joe pineapples

    Maybe one with Hilda Ogden’s mural for coastal regions.

  15. FibreBubble

    Perhaps Virgin could wrap their cabinets doors shut.

  16. Ex Virgin.

    They should probably fix the continued huge ping spikes and packet loss Gamer’s are getting in the 05 area.

  17. Dave

    Aren’t Virgin Media worried their cabinet would get shot at by a load of Torries.

  18. Phil

    Where I used to live Virgin Media updated their dark green cabinets and put in light grey ones! Not only were they suddenly a lot more obvious, these proved perfect for graffiti, and if they didn’t get written on, they just quickly became dirty and looked horrible either way. In addition they appeared to be made of a thinner metal and soon get dented by mindless idiots. Why anyone thought these new style of cabinets were a good idea I don’t know, I guess it was cheaper for Virgin.

  19. Peter

    Anything to hide the graffti gets my vote.

  20. Bob Lacy

    by converting to direct fibre 95% of the vb cabins would no longer be required.
    ie type 7 feeding 600 homes still required . type 3 ,2 1 could be removed.

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