Virgin Media trials wireless tech to connect fibre network

Virgin Media has trialled the use of wireless radio signals to help connect homes in a Newbury village to Gigabit speeds and TV services over full fibre, something it describes as a first for the UK.

The trial, led by Liberty Global and using Ericsson radio technology, has made use of high-capacity millimetre wave radio technology to connect two trunk points over three kilometres with a 10Gbps signal. The signal is then converted within a cabinet and services are delivered to premises over a full fibre connection.

Virgin Media has started by initially connecting 12 homes in Greenham, located just on the edge of the town of Newbury. These homes are currently receiving reliable 1Gbps download and 150Mbps upload trial speeds alongside the full line-up of TV services from Virgin Media. Residents are connected directly with fibre and use Virgin Media’s Hub 3.0 router and V6 set-top box.

By minimising disruption and avoiding the need for lengthy and expensive civil engineering work, this wireless backhaul could mean that trunk network build costs are reduced by up to 90%, according to Virgin Media, potentially making it viable to connect premises previously seen as too costly or logistically challenging such as rural areas and apartment blocks. The connectivity could also be used to help connect mobile providers and business customers.

Virgin Media said that the 10Gbps radio link can sustainably support delivery of residential services to 500 homes when considering a 40% average annual growth in data consumption, potentially rising to 2,000 homes with some configuration changes.

Virgin Media expects further trials of this technology to commence later this year.

Jeanie York, chief technology and information officer, Virgin Media said: “As we invest to expand our ultrafast network we’re always looking at new, innovative ways to make build more efficient and connect premises that might currently be out of reach. While presently this is a trial, it’s clear that this technology could help to provide more people and businesses with the better broadband they deserve.”

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