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Abandoned Sky Broadband FTTH Network Scooped by Virgin Media

Thursday, May 16th, 2019 (1:06 pm) - Score 29,952

Cable operator Virgin Media UK has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that they’ve wisely “taken over” rival ISP Sky Broadband’s 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Swandicote (Derbyshire), which was originally built as part of a trial and is believed to have covered up to 5,000 local homes.

We first reported on the deployment of Sky’s trial “full fibre” network all the way back in 2015 (here). The Swadlincote location was said to have been chosen because Sky believed that locals were interested in “ultrafast broadband” and the area also offered a representative cross section of the terrains / conditions that could be found elsewhere in the UK.

Unfortunately all of this was soon cast into doubt after Sky’s CEO confirmed, during 2016, that they had no plans to build further FTTH/P networks across the UK (here). Since then they’ve appeared to re-focus on taking similar products from Openreach (here and here), while also proposing alliances with alternative network ISPs (here). None of this involves Sky returning to build their own network.

The FTTH trial in Swandicote remained active until November 2018, when locals were informed that it was being shut (here). At the time those still using the service, which we estimate probably cost around £2m to deploy, were informed by Sky that they had “no plans to offer this service on a long-term basis.” This left quite a valuable piece of infrastructure in the ground, where it sat unused.

However over the past few weeks a couple of residents have nudged us about some unusual activity in the area, which appeared to suggest that Virgin Media were now starting to make active use of Sky’s old fibre optic network assets. Reports like this have cropped up before but until now there hasn’t been enough evidence to confirm it.

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media told ISPreview.co.uk:

“I can confirm that we have taken over the Sky build in Swadlincote. We are just in the process of carrying out the required works and aim to have premises connected by the end of summer.”

The move would appear to represent a smart play by the cable giant, which will be able to harness Sky’s old network to reach more premises (we assume via a mix of FTTP / RFoG) and without causing too much additional disruption via local street works. Sadly Virgin didn’t provide any further details (cost etc.) of the agreement. We have also asked Sky to comment and are awaiting their response.

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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.
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19 Responses
  1. Roger_Gooner says:

    Where would be the likely location of the OLT and what about the run to the spine?

    1. Rob says:

      Local BT exchange.

  2. Jonny says:

    This is probably worth the acquisition even if they just use it as a duct network.

  3. Declan says:

    Will they keep the exsting cables to the premises or replace with virgins coxal style cable?

    1. Bob Hannent says:

      Virgin already has an FTTP product and I don’t imagine they would want/need to lay coax when fibre already exists. The ductwork is probably also not suitable for coax.

  4. Chris says:

    All virgin new installs (not existing network areas unless upgraded) are FTTP.
    From the house wall plate the signal is converted to high bandwidth digital coaxial which then plugs into your TV set top box and broadband modem router.

    New builds are kept FTTP so that once RFOG limits have been reached/Consumer Premises Equipment (CPE) that directly connects to optical cables has been invented, the in-home part of the build can be changed cost effectively and relatively easily at time of CPE upgrade.

    1. Chris says:

      … but i suspect the above won’t be necessary for a long long while yet… as new docsis protocols already exceed 1gig speeds so RfoG (a digital radio frequency signal transmitted over glass
      Aka – fibre) will do nicely for now.

    2. Jimmy says:

      Not true, bathgate for example has been built using coax, no fibre at all

    3. Jonathan Buzzard says:

      RfoG limits are many many years away for the vast majority of users. Besides which it uses different wavelengths than GPON and XGPON so they can all coexist on the same piece of fibre.

    4. Jack says:

      Derby new builds only get coax. No fibre here or even 350mbps. Just 220mbps :/

    5. Youstillhere says:

      Chris is correct both Derby and Bathgate were existing areas. Areas of Derby VM has been available for several years, Bathgate has had it since before 2018 and further expansion in West Lothian took place in 2019.
      Neither are NEW areas both were existing Network expansion. NEW areas get FTTP, EXISTING it is pot luck.

    6. Lee says:

      If the general area is coax network already the new estates will also be coax as well (new builds around where i am most of them have pre pulled coxal+phone pair to each new house, but failed to do it quite large one near me)

  5. Craig Baker says:

    Interesting, very interesting

  6. William says:

    Will they be taking down the unsightly over build of overhead fibre cables zig zagging down the streets on poles? Looks a mess!

    1. CarlT says:

      No. What exactly would they be buying if they did?

  7. Lewis says:

    I would sign up to this in a heart beat. The internet around midway is horrifically slow and those sky FTTP boxes have been teasing me for years!

  8. Matt says:

    Any idea the size of the rollout / map of the area? I’m curious to see how big of a deployment VM will be picking up and if i’m near it!

  9. Ben says:

    We’ve just had a virgin media box go up in midway but I keep checking if we can get the service but it’s not yet registered 🙁

    Anyone got an update ?

  10. Tom Roe says:

    I’d love to find out when its available, there’s been no activity for some time but their website says still not available. Would love to finally get off 10meg fibre as midway is so rubbish for internet speeds

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