Inhabitants of the picturesque village of Woolhampton, 50 miles west of London, are set to be guinea pigs for an interesting broadband experiment. Virgin Media is to trial running fiber-optic cables from telegraph poles, piping ultra-fast broadband direct to the villagers’ homes.
Although you might think that it’s just case of stringing up the cables on the existing above-ground network, it’s apparently a bit more complicated than that. Workmen will have to install new poles, dig up the cable, stick it on the top of the pole, and then flick the switch.
If the six-month trial does work, the good burghers of Woolhampton will see their Internet speeds increase tenfold to a tidy 50 mbps. Virgin Media is pretty excited about the project, saying that it will help them “understand the possibilities of aerial deployment and may provide an exciting new way to extend next-generation broadband services.”
There are, however, a couple of problems. Firstly, it would make the network more vulnerable to a terrorist attack, and secondly, someone taking the telegraph pole out–like this:
It would lead to the whole neighborhood’s Internet connections going AWOL. And knitting a complex bunch of fibers back together isn’t so simple as a basic soldering job.
Virgin Media, presumably, will have taken into consideration the physical problems, such as the added weight to the cables in icy weather, but it does mean that maintenance fees will tumble, meaning maximum benefit to the ISPs (definitely) and cheaper broadband for us (err, I’ll get back to you on that one.)