Narrow trenches help Virgin expand fibre network
Virgin Media has confirmed it is rolling out a pure fibre network in a Cambridgeshire village, providing further evidence that it’s getting serious about expanding its network again.
The company has long been rumoured to be working in the area, and today confirmed that it will launch a gigabit fibre service in the village of Papworth, using a new narrow-trenching technique.
It’s another sign that Virgin Media, under new owner Liberty Global, is gearing up to provide greater competition to BT’s fibre network, having failed to deliver any significant growth in the footprint of its cable network for several years.
Earlier this year, Virgin announced it was connecting a further 100,000 homes in East London, the biggest single expansion of its network in seven years. Now, the Papworth trial – while limited to only 100 homes – may pave the way for further expansion of the Virgin network. A spokesman for Virgin told PC Pro that the company now has a “greater appetite to expand the network” than it had in previous years.
The narrow-trenching technique cuts down on one of the biggest costs of fibre deployments – the sheer expense of digging up roads. The new trenches are only 10cm wide, down from the 40cm trenches used previously.
This means engineers can cover up to 100m a day, which is more than twice as far as they would have got previously, according to Virgin. Overall, it could cut the cost of network deployments by a third, the company claims.
Virgin isn’t the only company experimenting with smaller trenches. BT has been testing micro-trenches as part of its nationwide fibre rollout, while Sky and TalkTalk have also been using the technique in a pilot test with CityFibre in York.
Virgin Media failed to bid for any of the government money that was on offer to bring fibre broadband to rural areas, because it would be forced to open that network to rivals, something it remains resolutely opposed to doing.