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Virgin Media UK Start Using Openreach Cable Ducts to Expand Network

Monday, Apr 1st, 2019 (11:22 am) - Score 23,116

Cable ISP Virgin Media has announced that, for the first time, they’ve officially expanded the coverage of their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based ultrafast broadband and TV network to a further 2,000 premises in Pontyclun (South Wales) by using Openreach’s (BT) existing cable ducts.

Openreach has just launched a revised Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product, which was updated to reflect Ofcom’s new Duct and Pole Access (DPA) requirements. In simple terms this is intended to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for UK ISPs to deploy their own “full fibre” broadband networks by harnessing OR’s existing cable ducts and telegraph poles.

The revised product is more flexible and we note that Virgin Media did conduct a limited trial of this last year under a railway line in Stallingborough (Lincolnshire), although today marks the first time that they’ve officially used it as part of their wider £3bn Project Lightning network expansion.

Cabling an area with fibre is a complex engineering task and Pontyclun provided some build challenges, especially when attempting to carry out expansion works close to bridges. To overcome these issues [we] made use of existing Openreach cable ducts as part of Ofcom’s PIA remedy. This allows other broadband builders to use Openreach ducts, which are the tubes broadband cables run through underground,” said Virgin Media.

Apparently much of the PIA related build was carried out close to a bridge crossing, which connects Llantrisant Road and Cowbridge Road in Pontyclun.

Alan Bristow, VM Build Director for the South, said:

“Local residents and businesses in Pontyclun can now reap the benefits of the UK’s fastest widely available broadband speeds. Making use of Openreach ducts has helped to make this build possible and give the local area faster, more reliable, connectivity.

We will consider using their ducts again so that more areas of the UK get a much deserved broadband boost from Virgin Media.”

Strategic use of PIA is now growing in popularity, although a number of providers like Cityfibre and Hyperoptic have recently raised concerns about using it more widely to help support major city-scale style deployments (here).

Cityfibre told us last month that, in its current form, PIA / DPA remains a “fundamentally non-equivalent proposition and its full potential to accelerate competitive rollouts unrealised.” Meanwhile Hyperoptic warned that “Openreach has no incentive to treat its competitors fairly – instead it is attempting to slow us down and make us pay to unblock and repair its Victorian infrastructure.”

However, Openreach itself has said that it wants to be a “dependable partner for all our customers who want to use our ducts and poles, and we’ll continue to work closely with industry over the coming months as the product continues to evolve.”

Speaking of evolution, Ofcom has already begun a consultation that could result in further changes to PIA, including the possibility of a new requirement for “unrestricted usage” by rivals (here). Currently PIA primarily only focuses upon the residential and small business market, while making it unrestricted could aid the business case of rivals by opening it up to those offering high-speed lines for large businesses/mobile/broadband networks etc.

NOTE: This is NOT an April Fools.

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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15 Responses
  1. Avatar photo VM says:

    April Fool Day

  2. Avatar photo Jack says:

    Did you also hear about openreach is now doing Copper to the cabinet and then fibre directly to your house. The speeds will be insane.

  3. Avatar photo CarlT says:

    Not a surprise and good to see. They ended up doing a 4km dig around a bridge here as they couldn’t go across and weren’t using PIA at that time.

  4. Avatar photo Moose says:

    Anybody know when this goes live as the checker is still saying it’s unavailable at my Pontyclun address?

  5. Avatar photo Optimist says:

    Perhaps that is the future for Openreach – just as an infrastructure provider so that other parties – telcos and perhaps end users – can install their own fibres without having to dig up roads and obtain wayleaves. This has happened before – the pipes originally installed to supply hydraulic power in the big cities have been repurposed to carry telecoms cables.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Maybe. Could also follow Swisscom and others in providing dark fibre to homes and businesses connected to handover ODFs where providers can connect them to transmission kit or switches and light them any way they choose.

  6. Avatar photo Jack says:

    So will this enable them to reach areas that they previously had written off as part of Project Lightning? For example, my area was considered but the costs were potentially to high/to complicated. Does this make it cheaper.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Not really. They, like Hyperoptic and CityFibre are using it very selectively where building their own infrastructure would be very difficult.

      Crossing bridges, large roads, etc this shows value.

      They had to mole their way under a road in West Yorkshire. This alleviates the need of there’s an Openreach duct available.

  7. Avatar photo Jamie Chisholm says:

    That will be a better thing as there many village and towns in Scotland in ayrshire that can’t get virgin so with openreach they will since they can get sky,bt and other providers that use the open reach network

    But I were I live I can get virgin but I and I was with them but they were rude to me so left them and went back to sky never go back with them aging sky is the best ever provider out there for TV and internet

    1. Avatar photo John McGowan says:

      Virgin finally finished the Beith install a couple of months ago and I got connected on the vivid350 tier. It has been absolutely spot on since then, They’ve just released a 500mb package and I’d be upgrading to it if it wasn’t part of a crappy bundle deal that costs double my current package! On the upside, they did increase my upstream for free from 20mb to 40mb in the last few days.

      It’s night and day compared to what the Openreach network offered via FTTC, I was capped out around 55/17 and I’m around 300~ metres away from the exchange. I’ve got my fingers crossed the virgin install lights a fire under Openreach and they enable g.fast or blanket the town in FTTP (can dream, right?). The sooner 1gb with at least 100mb up becomes standard the better.

  8. Avatar photo PIA Paul says:

    My understanding from reading the DPA/PIA documents is that it should only be used for proper network deployment and not just to overcome small sections of difficult dig. If companies are doing this then they may well find themselves subject to an audit from Openreach…

  9. Avatar photo In the Know says:

    Lots of inaccurate comments here.
    It is not an April fools joke, its really happening.
    Special engineering difficulties and trunk routes were the obvious use cases (and first for VM to test/verify) but not the only ones – Access to individual homes through PIA could significantly reduce the need for Communication Providers to dig the “last-mile”, which usually makes up the majority of an Access network build.
    PIA Paul – your interpretation isn’t correct – Under existing rules, PIA can be used in large or small quantities to stitch pieces of CP network together, providing the CP network connected/enabled through PIA is being used for the primary purpose of Broadband and meets Openreach “mixed-use” conditions.

  10. Avatar photo Brian says:

    I want virgin tv but can’t get it my area not cable but this give me hope

  11. Avatar photo Bernard Segal says:

    We are currently full package Virgin Media Customers(TV,Wi-Fi,Telephone)AS of today(August 5th,2019,we have been without our telephone line,as have about 100x users locally.for more than THIRTY DAYS..!
    Virgin Media communicate only by email saying, in standard info that it will be fixed/repaired within(say2/3x days.To date,to no avail.
    We managed to cold call an obscure tel/no,which was answered by a patient VM employee(in Manchester,he said),an dinformed us that this tech problem was very significant for Virgin Media,and was causing further tech problems to a wider area.
    Have written to Lberty Media,their majority shareholders to officially complain,several days ago.No reply,NOT even an auto reply saying your letter has been received,and will be replied to asap..!
    Please can someone help us to obtain a full and honest explanation of this problem.
    In the meantime,Virgin Media are being paid their contracted dues by S/O..D/D

    1. Avatar photo steve says:

      I have been waiting 10 weeks for my Virgin fibre to be connected as they cant blow down the newly installed fttp duct. Ive made dozens of calls and complaints to get this sorted but been without internet, TV and phone for 6 weeks but Virgin keep saying it is a blocked duct. the ducts were only installed in March this year so I will be going back to SKY VERY soon.
      I am paying for TV subscriptions I cant use, my sons are studying for Uni by hot spotting off a mobile and I cant view my CCTV system remotely. What a pain trying to get this fixed.

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