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Virgin Media Covers 4,000 Rural Test and Dun Valley Premises

Thursday, January 30th, 2020 (10:29 am) - Score 1,199
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Cable broadband ISP Virgin Media UK has completed their community driven project to roll-out a 1Gbps capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network across 12 rural villages in the Test and Dun Valleys of Hampshire and Wiltshire, which since starting in 2018 (here) has now covered a total of 4,000 local homes and businesses.

As first reported in 2017 (here), local residents had spent years campaigning to get Virgin Media’s broadband network into the area (TVNeed4Speed) and that was partly because the operator already owned an old cable duct along the Test Way, which is now being used as a springboard to provide a “genuine all-fibre network” via their latest FTTP infrastructure.

NOTE: The 12 villages include: Broughton, Chilbolton, Clatford, Firsdown, Goodworth, Houghton, Kings Somborne, Michelmarsh, Stockbridge, Timsbury, West Tytherley, Wherwell and Winterslow.

In order to ensure that the build was commercially viable the operator had to establish a new initiative, which required that at least 30% of premises commit to taking up its service once the work had completed. The target was achieved with a 38% sign-up average across the valley (some villages reached 78%), although the campaign FAQ noted that locals also had to pay a one-off flat-rate Network Installation fee of £300 per property.

Since then Virgin Media has laid 60 miles of micro duct and fibre optic cables through the 12 villages. The operator also minimised disruption on the narrow, country lanes by using a ‘mole plough’ to dig 9 miles of channels through farmers’ fields to lay fibre. As part of that local landowners also agreed to grant the operator wayleave access to carry out the necessary work on their land.

To get locals online quickly, Virgin Media also made use of Openreach cable ducts as part of the build, taking advantage of Ofcom’s Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) remedy to connect 137 tricky premises in Broughton, Kings Sombourne, Timsbury, Winterslow & Wherwell.

Rob Evans, MD Network Expansion at Virgin Media, said:

“Our network investment and expansion in Test and Dun Valley has brought life-changing connectivity to an area forgotten by other providers. This was a completely new concept for us which required a unique approach in what was one of our most rural broadband builds to date. It has been a real collaborative effort from the start and it wouldn’t have been possible without the support from residents and landowners. We’re proud to give this community the broadband boost it deserves.”

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said:

“I am absolutely delighted with the works carried out in the Test and Dun Valleys over the last two years by Virgin Media. The community vision to bring this project together deserves the utmost praise and I know that it would not have been possible without the community champions, the generosity of local landowners and Virgin Media. We had some of the slowest internet connection speeds in the country, but now we have some of the fastest. Rural connectivity is key to our economic growth and I am so pleased to hear that Virgin Media are looking at options to mirror the success in the area to other parts of the country.”

The completion of this network is excellent news for locals and as a reward the operator has now provided free connectivity for two village halls in Broughton and West Tytherley (they’re also “in discussions” to connect more community areas in other villages).

Overall we believe that Virgin Media funded the bulk of construction costs (estimates suggested it could cost up to £20m) and this was complemented with support from locals. In today’s announcement the operator reiterated that they expect this “innovative investment model to lead to similar community-backed projects across the UK,” although they’ve yet to name any other projects.

Naturally not all areas will be so fortunate as to have an existing optical fibre cable / duct running nearby.

Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar A_Builder

    Good work VM – more full fibre in the ground.

    It is a good example of leveraging existing assets to get something done.

    It would be interesting to know how this case about?

    If VM are interested in this model, going forwards, I’m sure they would be happy to share.

    Although my sense tell me there was one person at the core of this with a lot of tenacity and power of persuasion.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      Can’t type on my phone

      *came about….

      Also dynamics are a bit different now with the various voucher schemes.

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