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Virgin to trial super-fast broadband via electricity poles

From August, the small village of Crumlin in Wales will host a pioneering trial of super-fast broadband delivered via existing commercial aerial electricity infrastructure
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor

Virgin Media announced on Tuesday that it will begin trialling the delivery of super-fast fibre optic broadband via the existing electricity pole infrastructure to a small village in Wales.

Crumlin, Caerphilly will be hooked directly into Virgin Media's fibre optic broadband network at the start of the trial in August, providing Virgin television services as well as internet connectivity.

The endeavour is possible thanks to an agreement between Virgin and Surf Telecoms, a Western Power Distribution company that owns the electricity infrastructure. Virgin hopes that the trial will deliver 50Mbps broadband to Crumlin residents and that over one million homes could benefit from its "innovative approach", a number that the company has cited before.

"Working in partnership with companies like Surf Telecoms, we can more rapidly and efficiently expand the reach of fibre optic networks to towns, villages and communities right across the UK," said Jon James, executive director of broadband for Virgin Media in a statement.

The scheme will be the first attempt to deliver broadband using existing commercial infrastructure, although Virgin did announce a similar scheme to trial aerial broadband delivery in March 2010 to the small Berkshire village of Woolhampton using purpose-built equipment.

Richard Doble, Surf Telecoms' design and policy manager, said that the company was proud to be at the forefront of this innovation and that it is "exploring an innovative new approach that could bring ultra-fast broadband to many customers for the first time. The possibilities of aerial deployment promise a valuable use of existing infrastructure and an interesting new commercial opportunity for utility companies".

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt said in July that the coalition government was open to suggestions of regulatory changes that could see super-fast broadband spread into commercially unattractive areas, but reiterated that the private sector will spearhead the efforts.

"A genuine and long-lasting economic recovery must have its foundations in the private sector. When it comes to super-fast broadband, there is no question that the markets must lead the way," said Hunt at an industry event on 15 July.

Other schemes to deliver broadband to so-called 'notspots' and remote rural areas are also underway from the likes of BT and Clear Mobitel, the latter trialling the delivery of high-speed LTE connections to a remote Cornish village by using the 800MHz frequency freed up by the digital switchover.

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