Virgin Media will begin a unique trial of ultrafast broadband in the UK next month, using powerlines to deliver last-mile connectivity.
The firm has teamed up with Welsh infrastructure provider Surf Telecoms to offer access to its 50Mbps broadband and IPTV service to a small village in Wales, western UK, in a trial that runs until 2011.
Surf Telecoms is a subsidiary of Western Power, which owns a powerline infrastructure reaching over 2.5 million homes in Wales and South West England.
The utility firm’s powerlines will be connected directly to Virgin Media's fiber network as part of the trial.
Jon James, Virgin Media's executive director of broadband, said the trial could accelerate the delivery of next-generation broadband in the UK if it proves successful.
The technology to transmit broadband over powerline infrastructure – most commonly known as power line telecoms (PLT) in Europe and as broadband over powerlines (BPL) in the US – is relatively new as a mass-market product, according to Ofcom.
But the technology is taking off quickly. As of November last year, there were around 750,000 pairs of current-gen PLT equipment deployed in the UK.
Because it is a fairly new technology, the EU has not developed a harmonized standard for PLT products.
Ofcom in November said it had received 143 complaints about PLT, all from radio enthusiasts complaining of interference of radio transmissions on the HF band of 3 to 30MHz. But the regulator said it had not yet found any evidence that the products are in breach of interference requirements.
Virgin Media began a similar trial using telegraph poles to offer last-mile connectivity to its fiber network in March.