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Virgin Media lays 200Mbps fibre broadband cables in rural Leicestershire

Cable ISP Virgin Media is bringing up to 200Mbps fibre optic broadband to thousands of rural homes in leafy Leicestershire. 

As part of the company’s big ‘Project Lightning’ network expansion, residents in the villages of Blaby, Countesthorpe and Enderby will be able to tap into download speeds of up to 200Mbps before Christmas. 
  
Early next year, customers in Whetstone, Narborough and Cosby will be able to sign up for ultrafast services. In total, Virgin Media aims to bring its ultrafast wares to 16,000 homes in rural Leicestershire throughout 2016. 

Virgin Media’s reaching out to the sticks to demonstrate that it’s not such a service provider for suburban and city-dwelling folks. 

CEO of Virgin Media Tom Mockridge said: “Expanding our network to villages such as Blaby and Enderby shows that Project Lightning is not just about building in big cities, we’re also investing to bring ultrafast broadband to towns and villages close to our existing network across the UK.”

While a great deal of the premises due to be covered by Project Lightning are so-called ‘in fill’ addresses – areas where there are gaps in Virgin’s current network – the ISP is keen to promote the fact that if enough customers register their interest, it will expand further afield, as it’s done in verdant Papworth Everard, Cambridgeshire.  
 
Another key thing to note here is that unlike the majority of customers served by Virgin Media, the 16,000 new homes due to be passed will be able to get an FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) connection.  

A “we’ll be laying fibre optic cable all the way to customers’ doorsteps, future-proofing their homes for tomorrow’s connectivity” – Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEOThis delivers a fibre optic line straight to the home, unlike typical Virgin Media connections which use HFC (Hybrid fibre-coaxial) technology. Like BT’s superfast FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet) lines, the so-called ‘last mile’ of an HFC cable is made up of a copper connection, albeit a thicker, higher quality coaxial cable instead of a thin twisted pair of telephone wires. 

While this technology is capable of delivering the same top download speed of 200Mbps, Virgin Media’s keen to deploy FTTP in new locations.

It claims that the new narrow trenching technique its engineers use means roughly 100 metres of fibre optic cable can be deployed in a day, which is apparently twice as fast as previous methods. 

Mockridge added: “The innovative use of narrow-trenching means that we’ll be laying fibre optic cable all the way to customers’ doorsteps, future-proofing their homes for tomorrow’s connectivity and rolling out network more quickly.”

As demand for bandwidth increases, Virgin Media will be able to more easily give customers bleeding edge speeds. Rural fibre ISP Gigaclear, which exclusively sells FTTP services, has a top tier 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) symmetrical service and is currently trialling a 5Gbps package

BT also offers FTTP services via its Openreach network to a small, but growing, number of exchanges. At present, the top download speeds possible on BT FTTP lines is 330Mbps, although it’s made noises in the past of bumping this up to 1Gbps or even 10Gbps

According to SamKnows data, BT FTTP is available in ‘some areas’ served by the West Wigston and Narborough exchanges – which also serve Blaby, Countesthorpe and Enderby addresses. It’s currently unclear if BT and Virgin Media’s Leicestershire FTTP footprints will overlap. 

In the meantime, customers who want Virgin Media to dig for victory in their neck of the woods can head over to this Cable My Street page and register their interest. 

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