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Identifying BT and Virgin Media’s Broadband Street Furniture 2020

Friday, December 27th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 38,577

One of the most common requests we receive comes from UK readers who would like help in identifying the street furniture (cabinets and poles etc.) that has been installed outside of their homes, not least whether or not it relates to broadband connectivity. Hopefully this guide will help to answer such questions.

At present both Openreach (BT) and Virgin Media (Liberty Global) are engaged in a significant expansion and upgrade of their respective broadband networks. On the one hand Virgin Media’s DOCSIS (EuroDOCSIS) based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and “full fibreFTTP network is expanding its reach to around 60% of UK premises (16-17 million total).

On the other hand Openreach continue to deploy a variety of hybrid fibre-based (FTTC etc.) services to near universal levels of coverage, while their latest FTTP based ultrafast broadband technology should reach 15 million UK premises by around 2025. On top of that they also have a few million premises covered by hybrid fibre G.fast.

Suffice to say that some local streets are starting to become cluttered and yet many people will understandably struggle to identify what is actually being installed in their neighbourhood(s). As a result of that we’ve put together a simplified guide to help you identify some or all of the kit being installed.

Take note that a lot of infrastructure can be hidden beneath the ground, which can make pictures somewhat useless. Instead we’ve endeavoured to help identify the bits and bobs that you’re more likely to see with your own eyes, which we’ve roughly ordered by operator and technology type. Over time, and with the help of our readers, we aim to expand this list.

One other point to make is that there’s a growing market for alternative network providers, which sometimes use similar kit and thus a cursory visual inspection isn’t always enough. Likewise a number of areas have also experimented with wrapping cabinets in custom vinyl or painted prints (here and here) and that can make them harder to identify.

NOTE: Full fibre kit mounted on telegraphic poles tends to adopt fairly standard black casing and designs, irrespective of the operator involved.

Virgin Media’s Street Furniture

Generally the kit you see from Virgin will vary depending upon whether your area is being served by their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) or Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) Cable network, although nearly all of their modern street furniture tends to be coloured in a greyish cream (this helps to keep their hardware cool and to differentiate them from Openreach).

However some of their older street furniture, which was inherited from the NTL and Telewest days, is still coloured green and they can optionally colour new cabinets green.

VMDDx (e.g. VMDD1/HP1 – VMDD3/HP3 or VMDD3i)

virgin_media_vmdd3-hp3_to_vmdd1-hp1

These cabinets are for either Virgin’s Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) or FTTP network and come in various different sizes, albeit with broadly the same cosmetic appearance. The cabinets can help to serve as few as 60 homes or as many as 1024 and either contain distribution kit or distribution and nodal kit. DD1 and 2 are larger than DD3.

VMSD1 / VMSD1i

virgin_media_vmsd1

A smaller distribution or amplifier cabinet that is again used for either HFC or FTTP (SD1i). Such cabinets can help to serve as few as 30 homes by themselves or be used to support others in connecting up to a total of 512. One catch here is that Virgin can also use the same chassis to act as a dedicated power cabinet, such as for the next beast.

VMVH1

virgin_media_vmvh1

This is an absolute unit of a nodal cabinet (virtual hub). The large chassis is generally used as part of FTTP based deployments and you’ll normally see one for every 3,000 homes. Cabinets like this tend to be flanked by the smaller cabinet above, which is often acting as a power supply.

Virgin Media EV Car Charging Cabinets

virgin media ev cabinets

In a few areas Virgin Media have deployed some specially modified cabinets that help to support a new system for charging electric cars (here). We don’t know much about these but at present there are only a very few of them around.

Older Virgin Media / Telewest / NTL Cabinets

Over the years we’ve seen Virgin Media use a variety of different cabinets and that’s particularly true from the old NTL and Telewest days (both were later merged into Virgin Media). You can see a small selection below but we know there are others, including some very sharp solid rectangular ones. Sadly finding good images of the older kit has proven to be rather difficult. The big green cabinets are often confused with Openreach’s similar PCP ones (see page 2).

virgin_media_old_cabinets

NOTE: There is also a smaller VMSD0 distribution cabinet for handling up to 16 homes but we don’t have any pictures of it, only diagrams.

Wall Mounted Distribution Boxes

If you happen to live inside an apartment block (Multi-Dwelling Unit) then you might sometimes come across one of these. Virgin tends to use several from different companies like OpticReach and Hexatronic. Some of these are used for terminating drop cables in an MDU and others are used as a primary connection point for the entire building.

virgin media wall boxes

External Wall  / Termination Boxes (Cable Wall Boxes)

Not strictly street furniture but if you live in a house then you’ll probably find one of these boxes on the outside of it. The larger wall box on the right is used in their FTTP installs and often contains a Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG) node like the Vector BOOSTRAL 611, which converts the optical fibre signal into a coaxial DOCSIS one for use inside your home (i.e. so they can use the same customer kit regardless of HFC or FTTP).

The smaller junction box on the left is often used for cable management and holding splitters in regular HFC deployments.

virgin_media_external_wall_box

We do know of some other Virgin Media street furniture but have so far been unable to find any usable pictures.

Flick over the page to see Openreach’s street furniture.

Leave a Comment
21 Responses
  1. Avatar Alex Comerford

    I would add for Virgin lid markings: Redifussion who became croydon cable and C&W who morphed into NTL

    • Avatar Nigel Greenwood

      Alex Comerford – Cable and Wireless became ntl which then became Virgin.

    • Avatar Mike

      Yep C&W were in the cable TV game for a while, this ultimately became Virgin. Then there is the long haul and international part of C&W which was bought by Vodafone. (But not the Caribbean part which is now Liberty Global!)

      Sky “work with British Waterways” because in 1994 Marconi built a fibre network along many canals called Fibreway, this was sold to Easynet which was then sold to Sky.

      On CenturyLink (ex Level 3), Virgin and other large UK ISPs (apart from BT) use them and others for national network, either dark fibre or (most likely) lit wavelengths.

    • Avatar GEORGE CRAWFORD

      Redifussion… now there’s a blast from the past. The original UK cable tv service that only paid off for users who were in town but out of sight of a transmitter. Over 40yrs ago with the clicky box on the wall behind the tv. Ohh the good old days lol

    • Avatar CarlT

      Mike: if talking about large fibre networks in the UK don’t forget Zayo. SSE Telecoms, too.

    • Avatar brandon

      handy video charting the evolution of some of those assets

      UKNOF41 – The hitchhikers guide to ducts and poles, networks and 30 years of acquisitions
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I3XxniJdh8&list=PLjzK5ZtLlc92flNU8n-m7A9BNBBNGtSMv

  2. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    I’ve been unable to tarck down a photo of a Cambridge Cable cabinet which was plastic and I believe housed the optical node which served about 24 premises which could get up to 152Mbps.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Optical nodes would serve far more than 24 premises I would imagine.

      Probably a small distribution cabinet. May even have been for other things than CATV.

  3. Avatar Andy B

    There is a handy PDF located on the Openreach site which gives a lot of information about the various visible equipment that you will see. You can find it here:
    https://www.openreach.com/content/dam/openreach/openreach-dam-files/images/network-services/locating-our-network/locating-our-network-documents/identifying_our_equipment_guide.pdf

  4. Avatar Matt

    Nice little guide Thanks Mark! 🙂

  5. Avatar Hercules

    Bedford and Birmingham Virgin Media live going to visit somewhere??

  6. Avatar Sherculisa

    I think Virgin Media anywhere live big high look they. When next year dates will May, June, July and August 2020 new locked doors re-changed. ???

  7. Avatar Paul Davies

    Good old Virginia media even with all there upgrades to there Internet systems they still suck at been secure, As free Internet is so easy and I wish vm would sort this out as I do not condone theft of service but tonight u did do a pentest on there network and still to this day you can see all the peoples data in your local data without much hack the modems Mac can be sniffed and it gained from here I was able to issue a command which gave me the cert for any modem using vm’s tftp server and rerouting the cert data to my test server then I flashed a diffrent modem with firmware which is similar to what the cable company’s use to test the network and copied over the details I sniffed from my area to the new now cloned modem Mac,serial,cert and spoofed some other data is. Serial and sw so ir would match the organisation modem and will free cable Internet, com on Virginia it’s 2020 in a few days pls fix your network if you need help msg me lol

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      Reset the grammar bot!

    • Avatar CarlT

      This is a quandry.

      1) This would require an awful lot of cock ups to be possible.
      2) There is a fair amount missing from this recipe.
      3) It would be a bad idea for me to start filling in blanks.

      I’m very dubious but you can’t be too careful. Management at VM made aware of this claim.

  8. Avatar CarlT

    Few things:

    The SD1 and 1i are different cabinets. The i is used in FTTP areas only and may be a power pedestal for the VHUB and is a little deeper.

    DD1 and 2 are larger than 3. 3i is the same chassis as DD3 but being used in an FTTP area.

    The EV cabinet isn’t designated as an HP1.

    There is another cabinet that’s not being built anymore, an MSAN cabinet holding exactly that – an MSAN, which old school POTS services connect through. These are usually collocated with an DD/HP 2 which provides power, it holds UPS and batteries, and is doing HFC nodal duties.

    The VHUB also holds a big hunk of mains powered kit. These are OLTs, the same kind of thing FTTC cabinets connect to and Openreach FTTP customers have at the other end of their fibre.

    Openreach and CityFibre are the major only operators I can think of not having OLTs in the field.

  9. Avatar Michele

    So… these are solely Virgin cabinets outside our house then. I’ve always assumed they housed both Virgin and BT equipment.

    i.imgur.com/vvSOj2P.jpg

    One of those cabinets for sure serves our house (we lose connection occasionally when a Virgin engineer is working there).

    Total noob question;
    What are the benefits of living this close to the cabinet? Are we less likely to be affected by peak congestion and other issues that might affect households further from the cabinet?
    We’ve always had the advertised speed at all times, tested on various speed tests.

    Cheers.

  10. Avatar Bob de Builder

    Virgin chamber covers in Manchester and Derby have Nynex on them and in Nottingham they have Diamond Cable.

  11. Avatar Mr Clump

    Living closer to the cabinet makes no difference to your service on VM.

  12. Avatar Buggerlugz

    Nor does it improve the frequency of price increases, which coincidentally seem move inversely to Virgins reliability.

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