Papworth Everard that sits astride the old Roman road of Ermine Street in Cambridgeshire has Virgin Media and its contractors installing network expansion in the area. The rumour mill is that this is a FTTP deployment, but any attempted to clarify this from Virgin Media in the last few days have been unsuccessful, with no great desire to confirm whether this is traditional DOCSIS 3 fibre/coax hybrid network roll-out or a full Fibre to the Home.
Virgin Media embarking on a FTTH roll-out in an area is clearly big news and exciting as it would mean that all of the biggest four broadband providers are now embarked on a FTTH route, though with the first million FTTH homes still some way off.The Virgin Media community forums has the most active discussion on the roll-out, and some pictures of what has been put into the ground so far. The difficulty in spotting whether its normal cable roll-out of FTTP is that for cable broadband fibre is deployed to the area, with smaller sub cabinets handling the splitting of the coax between the various households, and ducting installed for the coax could just as easily be used for fibre too.
Hopefully once the roll-out has progressed some more things will become clearer, in the meantime one can understand Virgin Media being coy, as the speculation means more publicity. DOCSIS 3 is capable of much higher speeds than what is sold currently and some other Liberty Global providers in other countries already sell services that make Virgin Media look slow.
Looking at the much larger picture, one wonders whether the Labour and current coalition was too soft on the larger providers and should have pushed them more and offered encouragement to push their commercial roll-outs further, meaning the state-aid funded roll-outs needed to cover a smaller footprint. Our take is that all the BDUK funding has done so far is accelerate what would have happened over a longer period if the commercial market had been left alone, i.e. Openreach would have expanded its FTTC services footprint, but not at the rate the broadband campaigners were crying for.