back to article Virgin signals start of telegraph pole broadband test

Virgin Media is to see whether it can string up extensions to its fibre-optic network to Britain's telegraph poles in a bid to explore ways of bringing high-speed broadband to rural communities. The trial, which will kick of this month and run for a six-month period, will take place in Woolhampton, Berkshire, a village south- …


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  1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    In Las Vegas...

    ...there are three levels of cable on each pole:

    top: High Voltage transmission, one wire if single phase, three if three phase.

    next: local 220/120 for delivery to users.

    then: telephone company messenger wire, and supported cables.

    bottom: Cable company messenger wire. When COX put fiber into my house, they hung the fiber cable on the same messenger wire.

    Although we would all prefer utilities underground for esthetic reasons, adding another level to existing phone/electric poles could be a real winner for Virgin.

    Internet and beer, a match made in heaven.

    1. Stone Fox

      ..."there are three levels of cable on each pole"

      "op: High Voltage transmission, one wire if single phase, three if three phase.

      next: local 220/120 for delivery to users.

      then: telephone company messenger wire, and supported cables.

      bottom: Cable company messenger wire. When COX put fiber into my house, they hung the fiber cable on the same messenger wire."

      ummm... that's four.

      Not that I expect any difference from a yank, most of you seem to think that the first floor is the same as the ground floor. :)

      1. Disco-Legend-Zeke


        ...i had originally said three, forgetting the transmission at the top, then forgot to change the numbe when i added it.r.

        In rural areas, there is a fourth strand, called the "static line" to bleed static charges from the ground to reduce lightning attacks. Some electric companies have special static lines made with several strands of fiber at the core.

        re ground floor, we tend to even the count in taller buildings by omitting the 13th floor.

        have a pint on me!

        1. Jacqui
          Black Helicopters


          Its been a long time since I did any of this - X0+ years but...

          The local distribs in the UK are ~11KV and have a three disc hanger.

          The main distribution lines are 250K, 500K and 750K depending upon isolator size and oddly number of cables per run 1, 2 and 4.

          A high tension tower (danger of death) carries two three phase circuits, contra rotating to reduce EMF with a single earth line along the top as a lightning trap.

          It is this cable that the leccy boards used to attach their fibre to when they started offering net services - mainly because they could run a little unmanned trolley to do the job while power was still on.

          At the substation level they dropped to powerline technology over the 11KV lines and bridged the 11K to 450V 3ph drop. As we all know 450 3ph == 240 single with each house getting one of the three phases.

          Of course things have probably changed since the 80's :-)

        2. A J Stiles

          Er -- nope

          "re ground floor, we tend to even the count in taller buildings by omitting the 13th floor."

          No -- that doesn't even it out, it just skews it even more. Above the physical eleventh floor (which you call the twelfth floor) is the physical twelfth floor, which you are calling the fourteenth floor.

        3. frank ly

          @ Zeke

          ..Because the 13th floor is the most unlucky floor to jump from?

    2. Captain TickTock

      Four Levels...!

      5 if you count a fanatical devotion to the Pope, but then, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition ;-)

      In our village, power is underground. It's only the phone lines that are still on poles, so I'd go for it.

      I believe the council is trying to get everything underground to enhance our rural environment.

      Given that we're all supposed to be getting at least 2Mbps, it's either cheapish fibre on poles,

      expensive fibre underground, (which can be severed by a digger, like in Hemel and Luton this week)

      or high powered 3G masts.

      In the school playground.

      So, Virgin, where do I sign?

  2. SynicNZ

    Wait for it ....

    As soon as people see how ugly fibre is on power lines the bitching will begin

  3. john loader

    No history students then?

    BT strung fibre from poles in Wales around 30 years ago and proved it worked. Virgin needs to catch up

    1. Rod MacLean

      RE: No history students then?

      "BT strung fibre from poles in Wales around 30 years ago and proved it worked. Virgin needs to catch up"

      What were the poles for? (I assume it wasn't broadband internet!)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That seems...


    Why hasn't this been tried before?

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Telegraph Poles

    The whole point of putting fibre optics in the ground, I was led to believe, was to keep the fibre straight to reduce internal reflection?

    When the telegraph pole lines sag in the summer time, will this reduce effective bandwidth?

    Or is the effective bend radius here not a factor?

    1. Captain TickTock

      Saggy baggy

      Only really small radius bends are a problem for transmission (around 30mm)

      The main problem is making a cable with the tensile strength to be hung between telegraph poles.

      As apparently there is a huge demand for this in Japan and S Korea, the prices for such cables have gone down (good old Wikipedia... )

  6. The March Hare
    Thumb Up

    RE: Telegraph Poles

    As it's Virgin I believe they are considering tilting the light traveling down the fibre optic cables, by means of prisms, based on their work done with wobbly trains..


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think there is one slight drawback

    The yoofs and others will climb up and start stealing the fibre optics. Just like how road signs and manhole covers are being stolen nowadays.

    1. Captain TickTock

      Emerging scrap fibre market

      So who's going to buy all this stolen fibre?

      They don't do it for the fun of it.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Easy Solution

      Attach a high voltage cable to it. Hopefully that will resolve to problems.

      1. No more yoof.

      2. Cable remains where it is.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thieving ***** bastards

      I live in the Kent countryside and round these here parts there's many a road sign been sawn off to a stump by the local thieving ***** bastards; its annoying finding oneself at a rural crossroads and the direction sign is missing because it has been sold as "scrap".

      At least they've stopped cutting the live power cables to Channel Tunnel trains to get the copper; but they'll prolly start doing it again once the price of this metal goes up again.

    4. Elmer Phud
      IT Angle

      Not necessarily yoofs

      One of the big problems with OH feeds in rurual areas is that locals are prone to do a bit of pest removal with both barrels.

      That and wayward trailers and tractors.

      Here in the highly upmarket tech wonderland that is London - my phone line is fed via OH.

      (OH - sorry, old terminology -Overhead)

      But it'll only go to towns anyway so forget about the countryside retreat, miles from the meatropolis - no self-respecting ISP will be forking out to satisfy a relatively small number of subs.

      'it?' as it's (as always) about money, not tech.

  8. Ben winnipeg

    telephone ploes

    Here in Canada it may not be practical, we have some nasty ice storms and up to -40 and we still have thousands of people without power on the east coast. if it works great.

    Stone Fox, the first floor is the ground floor. you must have some confused elevators over there :)

    1. Stone Fox

      I hate to break this to you mate

      but the ground floor is the ground floor and the first floor is the one above it?

      right back atcha on the elevator thing!

  9. Dave Bareham
    Thumb Up

    Woolhampton has a lot going for it...

    ...Crap mobile phone signal and a good burger van in the laybye.

    Perfect combination for an extended lunch hour!

    Paris - because she loves a good munch

  10. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Broken fibre?

    I would have thought that the extra stress from fibre blowing in the wind would introduce stress fractures over time, even if there was some form of support cable with it.

    It is allowable to bend fibre, but there is a minimum radius for any bend dictated by the angles of reflection and refraction for the type of fibre used and the frequency of the light (can't quite remember my O level Physics). Even on a straight piece of fibre, the light does not travel straight down, it bounces from side-to-side, zigzagging down the fibre. If a bend is too severe, instead of reflecting back into the fibre, some of it is refracted out of it, causing a loss of signal. If the bend is really severe, all the light leaves the fibre leading to total signal loss. And a crack or fracture will probably have the same effect.

    Rather than single point suspension, I expect to see curved supports, so the overall shape will be a wavy line (~~~) rather than a series of connected 'U's or W's (WW)

  11. Tim Jenkins

    Can't happen soon enough...

    Our business site, with 100+ computers on it, is 5km up the road from our local phone exchange. ADSL peaks at about 1.1Mb/s with frequent rate caps due to line noise. Last time we asked Openreach to quote for a fibre bearer, they came back with £252,000 (£1000/m) for ducting up the main road from the end of the existing tunnel, as they won't consider installing on the existing poles...

    Any chance of a trial in mid-Wales?

    1. Disco-Legend-Zeke

      £252,000? Heck, For A...

      tiny fraction of that, you could buy a pair of radios good for 60Mb/s or so.

  12. Andy Livingstone

    Who lives in a house like this?

    Which Virgin exec lives in that village?

  13. Steve Adams

    if only we had a nationwide company....

    ....that already owned all the poles and ........was already mandated to provide telephone services to all households in the UK at "reasonable" prices (with a watchdog org tracking and reviewing its performance)..

    ...we could just get them to run some new super-dooopa-electric-string (fibre) and make a universal super-fast broadband service for all..... better still - it could be a nationalised company with no competing commercial interests and just concentrate on providing basic (yet essential) infrastructure and services for all..... at a low cost and with no profits to hand over to investors... it could use surplus revenues to re-invest in its network/infrastructure/services and/or reduce costs

    It could all be classed as "TELECOM" and be offered across the whole of Britain (i.e. to all "BRITISH" residences and businesses).

    Now... we would need a good name for a company like that.... hmmmm....

    Telecom Britania

    British Telecommunications


    can't think up a good one.... any suggestions?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Company title... about "The Post Office"??!!

      Maybe just showing my age!

    2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects 1

      It's obvious

      The BBC.

      Why couldn't you see it?

    3. JohnG

      National monopoly

      If we had the same national monopoly we had 25 years ago, we would still be using dial-up at 9600 baud but you would be able to opt to use your own 56K modem for an extra £75 per quarter.

  14. Juan Inamillion

    @if only we had a nationwide company....

    Nah! It'll never work...


  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    So long as this doesn't become an excuse for the government not to enact legislation making broadband over power lines legal. It would be a reality by now if vested interest groups hadn't tied up everything at the regulatory level for the last decade because of so-called interference with ham radios.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Perhaps they will be able to get around the law... providing power over broadband cables instead.

    2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Broadband over power cables?

      There have been trials of data-over-power grid (please note this is *NOT* the same as Homeplug). Scottish Power actually had a commercial service at one time, I believe.

      It's not RF interference that killed the trials of this, it was the cost of bridging the signal from high to medium to low tension safely, the problem of combining upstream signals, and the problem of suppressing power switching noise which would cause damage of the datastream ( I was told that even medium tension switching uses sealed oil-quenched switches that arc through the oil, causing it to boil and be very dangerous - exploding substations anybody?). Not conducive to data.

      My local electricity distribution company has fibre carried on its HT pylons, providing long-haul data services for trunks across the Atlantic, and has been selling bandwidth on this for over 10 years. But this is not suitable for broadband to the home, unfortunately.

    3. Steve X
      Thumb Down

      vested interests?

      What, you mean the people who pay a licence to use the spectrum that is being interfered with? Would you be so insulting it it were spoiling your daily fix of Eastenders?

    4. Captain Thyratron

      And they let you vote?

      By "so-called" do you mean "crippling"? "Rendering large swathes of the shortwave spectrum unusable in some places"?

      Shortwave is probably the only band that can get a radio signal across the globe without satellites or internet with much reliability. To piss all over it with BPL is not only detrimental to the hobby interests of licensed amateur radio operators (who are vital to emergency communications, which is one of the reasons why governments hand out ham licenses), but to police and military communications, to commercial broadcasting, to aviation, and to maritime communications. Parts of it are even used for astronomy.

  16. OzBob

    Uh, what happened to "sewer-net",..

    which was the big thing 2-3 years ago for low-cost high quality internet? or doesn't Sir Lord Almightly Branson poo or pee like the rest of us mortals?

    1. nowster

      Sewerly not

      In many rural places there is no main sewerage system; each property has its own septic tank.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Already exists

    BT already offer FTTP products such as Megastream and they can all be delivered using poles. Its's expensive? Well boo hoo, if you want fast broadband then move into town or pay through the nose for it - odds on, the exchange has been there longer than you have.

    1. Elmer Phud

      yeah but no but

      Smeagastream is old, old tech.

      Yeah it works but it's really only beefed-up Private Circuits.

      They prefer to sell VPN's nowadays as it takes less kit all round.

      It would be cheaper to run a fatter pipe to the smaller rural exchanges and then out from there -if, that is, they have managed to upgrade the tiny sheds and find space for the BBand racks.

  18. Rob

    What about...

    ... the sewers?

  19. The Beer Monster

    @AC 15:37

    Not your age at all.

    Could be the fact you're wearing a Buzby...

  20. Owen Kerr
    Thumb Up

    Works fine in Korea

    I've been in S. Korea for almost 2 years now and am still amazed at some of the places fiber has been connected to. I work about 15km from the nearest exchange but there is a connection to the centre I am in providing around 50Mbits/sec synchronous, the cable is mostly hung from telegraph poles, this is done by using a steel support cable then suspending the optical one plus a few others below this with supports every metre or so. In the cities and towns here there is fiber hanging everywhere and the connections are much more reliable than anything I used in the UK. I will miss 100Mbit synchronous in my flat for 15 pounds / month when I decide to leave here.

  21. zaax
    Paris Hilton

    50p pole tax

    Does mean we now have pay 50p pole tax, I thought we got rid of that 18 years ago?

    <- coz she oftern taxes someones pole


    virgin starts telegraph poles for broadband

    id say yes do this that way it reduces the amount of disruption of digging up roads and laying fibre that way so i say good idea virgin if this way is cheaper than other ways then id say go ahead and do it. who cares what the fibre cable looks like wether its purple red pink yellow green as long as it does its job and deliever fast speed because its about friggin time bt areas got upgraded and fast. fibre to the cabinet is not good enough as it makes no difference joining fibre onto copper because as soon as it hits the copper line it then reduces altogether. so no good and i also think its good that the conservatives are pushing for 100mb which is what everyone should have

  23. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Fiber on the pole works fine

    Regarding BPL, Captain Thyratron his spot on. BPL generates huge HUGE HUUUGE swaths of noise over the whole RF spectrum, the power companies "solution" to ham radio complaints was "Oh, we'll notch out a few specific frequencies". What about the rest? No solution to that -- the power lines act as a massive transmission antenna, leaking noise all over the place.

    Fiber on the pole? It works great. The local cable company has fiber-to-the-node, some parts of town it's all buried but towards downtown it's all on poles -- the fiber is on the pole along with the cable lines. The concerns about wind fatigue and such are unnecessary -- here in Iowa City, we have had in excess of 100MPH winds several times (and FREQUENT 50+MPH gusts in the summer thunderstorms), blizzards, ice storms (over 6 inches of ice a few times), and so on. Other than tornado damage snapping some poles clean off a few years ago, the above ground hardware has been quite resilient to extreme weather, and it's been up over 10 years. I don't know how this all affects fiber, but keep in mind it's not all beer and cigarettes for buried cables. Buried cables in general are susceptible to freeze/thaw cycles (ground shifts a bit), tectonic damage out west (earthquakes shift the ground) although that's not a problem here, electrochemical action (the soil will break things down over the long haul) and lightning strikes (for any copper portions remaining at least) This is anecdotal, but my parents have above-ground power and used to have above-ground cable --- no lightning problems. They have buried phone and a buried satellite dish cable -- about 15 years ago my modem got fused off-hook by a nearby lightning strike, and they had the LNB and Dish receiver burn out last year from a second lightning strike.

  24. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Good lord an FO cable with a metal wire support core

    Whatever will they think of next.

    Oh wait. Phorm.

  25. Spaceear

    give me it then if its real!

    So I called Virgin to see if I can get on the trial as this just happens to be the tiny little village where I live.... they never heard of it!


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