• Liberty Global and Virgin Media trials use of wireless radio signals to help connect homes in a Newbury village to gigabit fibre broadband and TV services
  • Homes connected with 1Gbps download and 150Mbps upload trial speeds, alongside full TV services
  • Potential for wider scale use that would speed up network build, reduce build costs and bring more rural areas in scope of better broadband
  • Liberty Global is currently investing to expand the Virgin Media network across the UK and Ireland, having to date connected an additional 1.7 million premises to its network through Project Lightning

Virgin Media has trialled the use of wireless radio signals to help connect homes in a Newbury village to gigabit speeds and TV services over full fibre – a first in the UK.

The innovative trial, led by Liberty Global and using Ericsson radio technology, has made use of 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. These homes are currently 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.

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.”

By minimising disruption and avoiding the need for lengthy and expensive civil engineering work, this wireless backhaul could mean that trunk network build costs are 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. The connectivity could also be used to help connect mobile providers and business customers.

While Virgin Media has trialled this technology with 12 homes, the 10Gbps radio link can sustainably support delivery of residential services to 500 homes when considering a 40% average annual growth in data consumption. Furthermore, following configuration changes, the radio link can be upgraded to support a 20Gbps connection – meaning 2000 homes could comfortably be connected in one area.

A 3km wireless distance is currently the optimal target to guarantee reliability in all weathers, however these radios can be chained together and used back-to-back which increases the range and scope of connectivity without compromising capacity or availability. As part of the gigabit fibre broadband trial, Virgin Media also tested and optimised the wireless trunk signal in a range of weather conditions including 80mph winds and 30mm rainfall to ensure the connection remained stable throughout.

Virgin Media is currently investing to expand its network across the UK and Ireland to provide millions more homes and businesses with ultrafast connectivity. To date Virgin Media has connected an additional 1.7 million premises to its network through Project Lightning.

Virgin Media expects further trials of this technology to commence later this year.