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Virgin Media set to hitch a ride on Fujitsu fibres

# 13 April 2011, 16:47 by Chris T

Virgin Media has been linked to a £multi-billion project to bring ultra-fast internet access to some of Britain’s broadband-starved rural communities.

Fujitsu plans to build a new network and sell wholesale access to internet service providers. It has been wooing both Talk Talk and Virgin, the UK’s second- and third-biggest consumer broadband suppliers.

The Japanese IT group has announced it hopes to spend up to £2 billion on connecting 5 million homes across rural Britain using fibre-optic cables and Cisco network hardware.

The UK Government has made a £830 million pot of public funds available to help pay for super-fast broadband access in rural areas that are hard to reach with established technologies and all but impossible to serve commercially with fibre.

Fujitsu hopes to secure £500 million from this pot – leaving just £330 million up for grabs by the likes of BT, which is already engaged in its own fibre network rollout project.

BT, whose efforts so far have largely focused on bringing fibre to urban areas, responded to Fujitsu’s announcement with a Press release that damned both Fujitsu and Virgin with faint praise, pointing out that Fujitsu had made no firm public commitment about the level of its investment.

It also used the opportunity to take another shot at Virgin Media, which BT would like to see compelled to open its own fibre network for competitors to buy wholesale access.

“They do need to be clear that this will be on an open, equal access basis as BT has committed. We do look forward to Virgin confirming that they will open their infrastructure to enable all companies to have the opportunity to invest in a new fibre future,” a spokesman said.

BT recently announced the prices it wants to charge for competitors to utilise its nationwide duct and pole infrastructure after being ordered to do so by OFCOM, the industry regulator.

Fujitsu has said it expects to use BT’s telephone poles and underground ducts when laying its own fibre cables. But unlike BT, which is largely terminating its fibre at street cabinets and using traditional copper wires to reach customers’ homes, Fujitsu aims to run the fibre right up to the customer’s front door.

That would enable ISPs using Fujitsu’s network to deliver blistering speeds of 10 Gigabits or more.

The Communications Minister, Ed Vaizey, welcomed the announcement, calling the collaboration between Fujitsu, Cisco, Virgin and TalkTalk “exactly the sort of ambition and innovation the government wanted to stimulate by removing barriers to broadband roll-out”.

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