Virgin Media Sets 1-Gig Test

Virgin Media, the largest cable operator in the U.K., is tossing its hat into the 1-Gig ring via a small trial that will try out a new trenching technique that, it claims, can reduce deployment costs by 33%.

Virgin Media, a unit of Liberty Global, said it will use the technique – called “narrow-trenching” -- to bring 1-Gig speeds to about 100 households in the Cambridgeshire village of Papworth. According to the MSO, narrow-trenching reduces the width of the trench used to lay fiber from 40 centimeters to about 10 centimeters, enabling engineers to cover up to 100 meters per day, about twice as fast as current methods.

John Henry Group, a construction services company based in Cambridge, is teaming with the operator on the narrow-trenching project in Papworth.

The area being targeted by the trial is not an overbuild of Virgin Media’s existing cable plant, but will instead touch homes that are close to the MSO’s network, a spokeswoman said via email. ‘

“The narrow-trenching trial is underway and we’ll start connecting homes over the coming weeks,” she added, noting that Virgin Media will disclose more details about the trial, including pricing, at a later date. Virgin Media said it will contact homes directly that are eligible for the 1-Gig trial.

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, applauded Virgin Media’s trial. The MSO “is to be commended for their continued exploration and development of new technologies which are helping transform the UK’s digital landscape," Javid said, in a statement. "Virgin Media’s continued investment in the expansion of their network, together with Government’s own rollout of superfast broadband to rural areas, is already playing a significant role in driving the UK’s economic growth.”

Virgin Media today uses its DOCSIS 3.0 platform to deliver a high-speed Internet tier that tops out at 152 Mbps.