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Virgin Media trials gigabit wireless for rural village connectivity


Virgin Media is trialling the use of wireless radio signals to help connect homes in a UK village to gigabit speeds and TV services over full fibre.

The trial, hailed as a first of its kind in the UK, is led by Liberty Global (which owns Virgin Media) and uses Ericsson’s high-capacity millimetre wave radio technology to connect two “trunk” points over 3 kilometres with a 10Gbps signal.

The signal is then converted within a cabinet and services are ultimately 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 market town of Newbury.

The company reports that the homes are now 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.

Scaling it

While this trial only covered 12 homes, the 10Gbps radio link could sustainably support services to 500 homes and businesses, Virgin Media says. Further, with configuration changes, the radio link could be upgraded to support a 20Gbps connection – meaning 2,000 homes could comfortably be connected in one area.

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.”

Virgin Media also says that because the approach doesn’t require lengthy and expensive civil engineering work, trunk network build costs could be reduced by up to 90%.

This reduction could help make it viable to connect premises previously deemed too costly or logistically challenging such as rural areas and apartment blocks.