Broadband News

Virgin delivers full fibre trial to Greenham using wireless backhaul

Point to point microwave wireless links are nothing new, Openreach has used this technology for a small number of VDSL2 cabinets and plenty of other links are in use across the UK but Virgin Media is claiming a first for the combination of protocols and technologies involved in a trial covering parts of Greenham (Berkshire).

12 homes on the outskirts of Newbury now have a Gigabit download and 150Mbps upload service via fibre into the home  (as well as Internet they also get the standard Virgin Media TV channels), the difference compared to other Virgin Media RFOG (FTTP) deployments is the use of a microwave point to point link that is backhauling data over a 10 Gbps link some 3km into the centre of Newbury.

The frequencies used are in the 70 to 80 GHz band and this means the signal is line of sight and this wireless link with upgrades can support 20 Gbps. The current 10 Gbps link is expected to be able to support some 500 premises and we have asked if the final fibre drop will expand to more homes in Greenham, with the full spec 20 Gbps supporting 2,000 premises. The contention ratio works out at the very old fashioned 50:1 (100:1 in fully expanded mode) giving you some idea how backhaul rather than the final drop to homes may prove to be the differentiator between services in years to come.

The hardware in the homes is the standard Virgin Media TV set top box and cable modem with the conversion from fibre optic to coax happening in a small converter usually located on the outside wall of the home.

WIth the what can be called a fibre and full fibre connection debate being one of those ongoing social media debates, inserting 3km of wireless link into the mix adds an interesting point for anyone considering what is FTTP.  Though at the end of the day does the public care if it is getting a reliable Gigabit based service?

Update 2pm: The trial is set to last 12 months and no decision has been taken yet on what will happen. Obviously for residents taking part falling back from a Gigabit connection to what they had previously will not be popular.


Reminds me of Ionica, although that ran at 3.5 GHz. I still have the little octagon shaped dish on the roof :-)

  • tmcr
  • 4 months ago

It's worth noting that Greenham is within spitting distance of Gigaclear's network, which is available in most small villages surrounding Newbury

  • chrsphr
  • 4 months ago

I'm wondering what the latency will be like when it's near or at capacity?
I know VM have a lot of complaints from the Gaming community on the Forums regarding this.

  • Adduxi
  • 4 months ago

I had something similar when I lived in a high rise apartment block in HK, and the microwave link is guaranteed to drop whenever it rained. Maybe technology has improved, but good luck with physics!

  • burnduck
  • 4 months ago

Can't break the laws of physics but nothing in them that says that you can't get a microwave link through rain.

Added bonus the rain in HK is somewhat more aggressive than the UK's as a general rule.

This kit can probably adapt to conditions to run at lower order modulations and hence bandwidth if the conditions are really bad, and the kit either side of the microwave link has extensive error correction capabilities too, alleviating some of the stress from the microwave link.

  • CarlThomas
  • 4 months ago

'I'm wondering what the latency will be like when it's near or at capacity? '

It won't be at or near capacity. Capacity will be dependent on the access network, not the backhaul.

If they're using really interesting equipment either side that kit will be aware of backhaul limitations and change the distribution of broadband data to TV channels or the mix of TV channels moving stuff that isn't being watched from broadcast to unicast.

  • CarlThomas
  • 4 months ago

If its a telco grade microwave link which it sounds like it is, rain fade can be factored in during link planning, meaning good up time even in heavy rain.

  • fasthorsedog1
  • 4 months ago

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