Virgin planning network expansion on BT poles and ducts

Virgin Media could be the big winner after Ofcom told BT to offer greater access to its network and infrastructure, according to analysts.

Virgin planning network expansion on BT poles and ducts

For consumers, it could mean as many as three million more homes can move to the Virgin Network, bringing the option of up to 50Mbits/sec broadband and TV and phone services.

Regulator Ofcom laid out guidelines insisting BT open up its ducts and poles to allow rivals to install fibre and let them run services on equipment owned by BT.

Virgin tried unsuccessfully to reach an agreement with BT last year over access to poles and ducts, and the ruling by Ofcom could see the cable provider extend its network.

“Virgin Media is really the only player that can benefit from this because you need to be a major player with your own access to make it work,” said Ian Watt, a telecoms expert with Enders Analysis. “We expect Virgin to go for low-hanging fruit, like affluent villages that are near the existing network.”

“Outside Plymouth, for example, you have affluent villages, that are near Virgin Media infrastructure and could be connected up,” he noted.

Watt said the ability to roll out cable on BT physical poles and ducts could see the company reach around 15.5 million homes, up from a current footprint of 12.7 million.

Virgin could well use BT’s General Ethernet Access fibre products to resurrect the nationwide triple play

Although Virgin was already planning a limited expansion, the opening up of ducts could make cabling more areas economically viable.

However, while Virgin is not denying its desire to use BT’s infrastructure, it is remaining cautious until it sees prices for access.

“This is an important step, removing one of the hurdles that make such developments near impossible at present,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“However, we now need to ensure the price demanded for access to poles and ducts does not limit the ambitions of getting next-generation connectivity to those people living outside our towns and cities.”

Enders Analysis also believes that Virgin Media will look to offer an “off network” package to consumers by reselling BT’s wholesale fibre products.

“Virgin could well use BT’s General Ethernet Access fibre products to resurrect the nationwide triple play of broadband, telephony and television that it tried some years ago,” said Watt.

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