Abandoned Sky Broadband FTTH Network Scooped by Virgin Media

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Cable operator Virgin Media UK has confirmed to ISPreview.co.uk that they’ve wisely “taken over” rival ISP Sky Broadband’s 1Gbps Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in Swandicote (Derbyshire), which was originally built as part of a trial and is believed to have covered up to 5,000 local homes.

We first reported on the deployment of Sky’s trial “full fibre” network all the way back in 2015 (here). The Swadlincote location was said to have been chosen because Sky believed that locals were interested in “ultrafast broadband” and the area also offered a representative cross section of the terrains / conditions that could be found elsewhere in the UK.

Unfortunately all of this was soon cast into doubt after Sky’s CEO confirmed, during 2016, that they had no plans to build further FTTH/P networks across the UK (here). Since then they’ve appeared to re-focus on taking similar products from Openreach (here and here), while also proposing alliances with alternative network ISPs (here). None of this involves Sky returning to build their own network.

The FTTH trial in Swandicote remained active until November 2018, when locals were informed that it was being shut (here). At the time those still using the service, which we estimate probably cost around £2m to deploy, were informed by Sky that they had “no plans to offer this service on a long-term basis.” This left quite a valuable piece of infrastructure in the ground, where it sat unused.

However over the past few weeks a couple of residents have nudged us about some unusual activity in the area, which appeared to suggest that Virgin Media were now starting to make active use of Sky’s old fibre optic network assets. Reports like this have cropped up before but until now there hasn’t been enough evidence to confirm it.

A Spokesperson for Virgin Media told ISPreview.co.uk:

“I can confirm that we have taken over the Sky build in Swadlincote. We are just in the process of carrying out the required works and aim to have premises connected by the end of summer.”

The move would appear to represent a smart play by the cable giant, which will be able to harness Sky’s old network to reach more premises (we assume via a mix of FTTP / RFoG) and without causing too much additional disruption via local street works. Sadly Virgin didn’t provide any further details (cost etc.) of the agreement. We have also asked Sky to comment and are awaiting their response.

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