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By: MarkJ - 11 March, 2010 (11:55 AM)
virgin media ukCable giant Virgin Media UK has announced a new 6 month trial that involves using telegraph poles to deliver ultrafast 50-100Mbps Cable Modem (DOCSIS) broadband services to the rural Berkshire village of Woolhampton. Cable carried over the telegraph poles will also carry Virgin's TV service, including 5,000 hours of catch-up TV and on-demand (VoD) content.

The use of telegraph poles, which is cheaper than digging up the roads, to deploy a Next Generation Access (NGA) network is nothing new. However the fact that Virgin is doing it in a rural area that could previously only get BT’s slower copper network is perhaps more significant.

Neil Berkett, CEO of Virgin Media, said:

"This unique trial will allow us to understand the possibilities of aerial deployment and may provide an exciting new way to extend next generation broadband services. With everything from BBC iPlayer to YouTube increasingly demanding reliable ultrafast broadband speeds, we're keen to ensure that all communities, in towns, cities and villages right across the UK, stand to benefit."

The trial is part of Virgin's recently announced plans to bring NGA services to people who currently live beyond the reach of fibre optic networks. Virgin has already announced plans to extend its fibre optic network, which today passes 12.6 million homes, to 500,000 new homes and has identified more than 1 million homes in parts of the UK that stand to benefit from deployment over telegraph poles.

Virgin notes that the Government is currently considering a change to planning guidelines, which is needed to enable large scale overhead deployment. BT also has its own plans for using telegraph poles to deploy its own 'up to' 100Mbps FTTH / P products over the next two years.

In the meantime, the Woolhampton trial will provide valuable insight into the technical, operational and commercial viability of this type of solution and build on what Virgin Media has learned from a trial in Cornwall started in 2009. The Cornish trial brought NGA to the villages of Hatt and Saltash by running underground fibre optic cable to BT's local street cabinets (similar to BT's own 'up to' 40Mbps FTTC solution).

Virgin Media believes that using overhead poles as well as underground ducts could, in some cases, significantly improve the viability of delivering next generation digital services to rural communities. As a bonus they also get to step on BT's toe.
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