Villagers get fibre broadband via electric pylons

Residents of a small village in Wales have found their hopes of receiving super-fast broadband are literally up in the air, after Virgin Media announced a trial to install fibre optic cables on their existing electricity pylons.

The trial, in Crumlin, Caerphilly, is the result of collaboration between the cable ISP and local power company Surf Telecoms.

Virgin began overhead deployment of fibre in March, installing cable on purpose-built infrastructure in the Berkshire village of Woolhampton. The Crumlin trial marks the first time the company has used existing power line hardware for the job.

Virgin Media says that installing fibre above ground is quicker and more efficient than the traditional method, which involves gaining access to BT's underground cabling ducts.

"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 from Virgin Media.

Crumlin's new fibre infrastructure promises download speeds of up to 50Mbps, as well as Virgin Media's cable TV services. The trial will begin next month, and is scheduled to last until 2011.

In a press release, Richard Doble from Surf Telecoms explained the potential of fibre deployment over the power network of parent company Western Power Distribution:

"Western Power Distribution's electricity infrastructure reaches over 2.5 million homes across South West England and South and West Wales, and the possibilities of aerial deployment promise a valuable use of existing infrastructure and an interesting new commercial opportunity for utility companies."

Above-ground fibre deployment such as this could provide one solution to the government's aim of providing broadband to rural 'not-spots', now scheduled to be carried out by 2015.