Virgin Media to Trial Fiber Broadband Over Telegraph Poles

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Virgin Media will use telegraph poles to extend the reach of FTTH (fiber-to-the-home) in a test in the U.K. village of Woolhampton, it said on Thursday.

Users participating in the test will get download speeds of up to 50M bps (bits per second), according to Virgin Media. The goal is to see if using telegraph poles is a viable option to extend the coverage of fiber, especially to rural areas. The operator wants different options as it expands its broadband network, a spokeswoman at Virgin Media said.

The problem with fiber in rural areas is that the cost of digging and laying cable can become prohibitive, and using telegraph poles is away to get around that, according to Annelise Berendt, next generation access analyst with market research company Point Topic.

The trial will start in March and is scheduled to run for approximately six months, according to Virgin Media. The operator has identified more than one million homes in the U.K. that could benefit from broadband deployment over telegraph poles, it said.

Currently, 15 European countries have reached fiber penetration of 1 percent or more, but the U.K is not among them, according to the FTTH Council Europe. That France passed the 1 percent mark at the end of last year was a step in the right direction, and now Germany and the U.K. have to ramp up its efforts do the same as soon as possible, the Council said on Feb. 24.

Contrary to other European governments and local authorities, the U.K. has so far taken a hands-off approach to financing the roll-out of fiber-based broadband, but that is now staring to change, Berendt said.

Currently, the five European countries with the highest penetration are Lithuania, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Estonia.

FTTH Council Europe's numbers include FTTH, where the fiber cable is connected directly to the household, and FTTB (fiber-to-the-building), where the fiber cable is terminated inside a multitenant building and a LAN is used to connect the households.

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