Virgin Media is to offer residents of a Welsh village access to broadband internet for the first time. The Cableco has signed an agreement with Surf Telecoms to run internet and television services over existing electricity poles to residents in Crumlin, Caerphilly.
Although Virgin has previously engaged in the delivery of services running above ground – a trial in Woolhampton, Berkshire begun in March using purpose built infrastructure – this is the first time in the UK that an existing commercial infrastructure has been used.
In addition to broadband speeds of up to 50 Mbps, subscribers will also be able to access Virgin’s TV service. The trial will get underway next month and is scheduled to run into 2011. The former railway town of Crumlin has a population of 5,724, though the numbers participating in the trial will be measured in tens.
Jon James, executive director of broadband, Virgin Media, said: “Working in partnership with companies like Surf Telecoms, we can more rapidly and efficiently expand the reach of fibre optic networks to towns, villages and communities right across the UK.”
The trials are part of Virgin Media’s efforts to expand its network that currently only reaches half of the country. Analysis suggests that the approach taken in Crumlin and Woolhampton could accelerate delivery of next generation broadband, though the cableco called on “focused measures” from government to make it possible.
Richard Doble, design and policy manager, Surf Telecoms, said it was an innovative approach that could bring broadband to many of his 2.5 million customers across South West England and South and West Wales for the first time. “The possibilities of aerial deployment promise a valuable use of existing infrastructure and an interesting new commercial opportunity for utility companies. We’re pleased to be at the forefront of this innovation.”
It is not uncommon for electricity companies to be involved in broadband delivery, Scottish Power ran Thus, before selling out to Cable & Wireless in 2008. A more workable example is the Norwegian energy company Lyse, which runs a broadband and IPTV subsidiary.