Virgin Media FTTH – Chatteris
Updated 11 Apr 18
This blog is about the roll out of Virgin Media fibre to the home in Chatteris from the civil works through to the delivery of a live service at my house and beyond.
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Timeline of my installation:
- June 17, Virgin Media (VM) started FTTH works in Chatteris.
- 23 October 17, VM started trenching in Farriers Gate outside Glebelands school.
- 24 October 17 , Letter pushed through the door from VM
- 25 October 17, Trenching and Toby installed.
- 26 October 17, Trench tarmacked and construction barriers removed.
- 5 November 17, I buried 20mm conduit from Toby to house wall and included a draw cord.
- 26 Nov 18, Cabinet AF0503 made live.
- 1 Feb 18, Virgin Postcode Checker now shows service available in my street.
- 4 Feb 18, Ordered VIVID 200 package for installation on Friday 23 Feb 18 between 13:00 – 16:00. Went through to the Virgin Media shop in Peterborough looking for some form of promotion or deal to reduce costs, this didn’t happen, in fact they suggested I could save money ordering in shop as they would waive the installation and F-Secure costs, this was incorrect as the online booking information has these as free, also they wanted £25 up front, £20 activation fee and £5 which would be returned once the service was active, online it is £20 only activation, so I booked online, as an aside, if I had ordered in the shop my statutory rights to cancel is reduced from 14 to 10 days protection which you get when booking online.
- 11 Feb 18, received two e-mails, the first containing e-sign contract, the other was what to expect on the day of installation.
- 16 Feb 18, received mobile call from Callum of the Virgin Media installation team wanting to come and install a microduct from the Toby to my house, fit the Omnibox and blow the fibre from the street cabinet to the Omnibox, this is done a week in advance of the engineers on the 23 Feb, I arranged for the following day to meet them as I was 180 miles away! (this part of the process was not known to me and came out of the blue, I assumed it would be a ‘one hit’ visit).
- 17 Feb 18, James from the installation team rang to cancel as Callums son had a fall and was needed at home, as the install is a two man job I returned his call and rearranged for Monday 19 Feb after 16:00.
- 19 Feb 18, James & Callum turned up at the appointed time to install the microduct, fibre and Omnibox.
The guys first photographed a laminated sheet showing my address, date and their names next to my open Toby, once this was done they threaded a black microduct pipe from the pavement Toby through the conduit I had previously laid to the house, the brown Omnibox was fixed to the wall with 4 screws and the microduct pipe clipped into place in the Omnibox, at the Toby a coupling was installed transitioning from the green microduct to the black microduct.
The distance was measured using a measuring wheel from my Toby to the street cabinet (72.5 m), while the measuring was going on, compressed air was blown down the microduct from the house, this caused the yellow protective cap to be blown off the end of the green microduct in the cabinet, identifying which tube out of many, as coming from my house.
In the cabinet a ‘fibre catcher’ was fitted, at the house end the fibre cassette containing 100m of fibre was fixed on a device which enabled the fibre to be blown into the duct until it was caught by the cabinet catcher.
At the cabinet, the fibre catcher was removed and a protective sleeve was fitted over the fibre and terminated in a connection, this connection was then plugged into a breakout panel in the cabinet.
At the house end, the surplus fibre from the cassette was wrapped within the Omnibox, the house end is pre terminated, once this was done, a reading was taken of light losses (-0.13db) to check they were in an acceptable range, the reading was photographed with the laminated sheet used earlier as proof of service in advance of the technical install scheduled on Friday 23 Feb 18.
- 23 Feb 18, Go Live Day – Engineer Sam arrived between the allotted time of 13:00 to 18:00 to start the installation.
He was quite happy that the hole through the wall into the lounge was already in, as was the dry lining that he could hang the Isolated Power Injector on.
First job was to push a peice of HFC cable though the wall from the Omnibox and put a connector on the end, this was connected to the Isolated Power Injector (IPI) Teleste IP1-G1)), which is mounted within an enclosure on the lounge wall (the screw holes of the enclosure and backplate fit a standard dry lining box), a short length of HFC cable from this goes to a 12v plug in PSU in order to back feed the external optical media converter with power.
The bottom IPI output is connected to a 2 way splitter (Technetix ESX-02), one leg goes to the router (a 3db attenuator was installed to balance the system), the other leg to the TV box.
As the TV box, Router and Optical media converter require power, three 240v sockets are required.
In the Omnibox, the HFC cable was terminated, and plugged into a DC passing port of the 4 way splitter (Amphenol Model ABS104TP), from the splitter this is plugged into the Vector Boostral 610 optical media converters output.
Once the external works was completed, the router and TV box were powered up and an Ethernet cable from the router to TV box was plugged in. The hardware went through three re-boots and software updates and I was good to go.
- 24 Feb 18, Netflix is suffering lip sync issues when viewed through the VM TV Box, also download speeds vary from 210Mb to 38Mb (wireless tests), it’s early days, so I hopefully this will stabilize soon.
- 25 Feb 18, Speed test using direct cabled connection to Virgin Media router (200Mb service ordered) :
25 Feb 18 @ 14.11
- 2 Mar 18, TalkTalk, my existing provider reduced my package ‘Fibre Large’ which is Fibre To The Cabinet’ (FTTC) by £26:25, on knowing I was thinking about leaving for Virgin Media, they did this by moving me to the ‘Faster Fibre Plan’.
I get the same package as before (TV, broadband and phone landline including line rental) for £31.75 per month, the download and upload speeds I’m getting are more than enough for my needs even when all the kids are home battering the broadband, also I keep my landline, Virgin Media have not yet enabled VOIP on the router which was another factor for me.
I called Virgin Media to cancel my arrangement (within the 14 day ‘cooling off’ period), they obviously asked why and I mentioned the main reason was cost and as an aside, that my wireless speeds were faster with TalkTalk rather than Virgin Media.
Perplexed by this, he transferred me to technical in a foreign land and they remotely checked the line and rebooted the router, then asked me to perform a router reset using a paperclip, which I did whilst they were on the phone. They assured me everything was working properly and I did a wireless speedtest and managed 136Mb download.
Checking later I took the following images of speed:
The above results used OOKLA Speedtest on an iPhone 6, as the SSID on the Virgin Media router is the same for 2.4GHz and 5GHz I didn’t know which Wi-Fi band I was measuring, I was however, the only device was connected to it.
For balance I ran another TalkTalk test at 2.4GHz, and the readings came out at Download 41.7Mb, Upload 16.8Mb which wasn’t too shabby, especially as 7 wireless devices were connected.
I also ran a directly ethernet connected Virgin Media router test later with a laptop at 20:00hrs 2 March 18, and managed a download speed of 76.17Mb and upload of 10.3Mb, not brilliant for an upto 200Mb service which I was assured was working as it should.
The upshot is that I staying with TalkTalk meaning that I reluctantly terminated my arrangement with Virgin Media effective from 3 March 18.
- 8 Mar 18, Disconnected my Virgin Media as per the instructions which came in my returns packaging and boxed up the following way as requested:
- TV box;
- Remote control;
- Two power supplies;
- Leads for the above PSU’s;
- Splitter and three CATV cables.
This was then taken to my local ‘Click & Collect’ store and it was winging it way back to Virgin Media at nill cost to me.
- 14 Mar 18, Text from VM to say the kit has been received and any charge for kit that might have been applied to my account will be credited, also received an e-mail:
- 21 Mar 18, Received my first and last Virgin Media bill, this covers the week I had the service and the activation charge, total payable – £36.67.
- 30 Mar 18, Checking my bank statements and no money has been taken by Virgin Media so I cancelled the Direct Debit to them.
- 1 Apr 18, Received e-mail from Virgin Media thanking me for joining them and asking me to complete a short survey which I did even though I’m no longer a customer.
- 4 Apr 18, Virgin Media activity showed on my bank statement ( – £36.76 then +£36.67), contacted VM and they said I do not have to pay anything as I cancelled within 14 days.
- 11 Apr 18, Text from Virgin Media to call 0800 052 2630 in order to clear my outstanding balance, talked to Kirsten and she saw the error that cancelling within 14 days shouldn’t have triggered a bill, so she added a small credit to my account in order to cancel the debt on the system.
- 25 May 18, Received letter from Virgin regarding GDPR.
Chatteris Fibre To The Home (FTTH) Story:
Headline – The bulk of the infrastructure took 10 months to install (June 17 – March 18), comprising:
- 36.3 miles (58.4Km) of ducting
- 2 Nodal Hubs
- 11 Level 3 street cabinets
- 123 Level 4 street cabinets
As part of Connecting Cambridgeshire Virgin Media are rolling out super fast broadband.
Phased civils started in June 2017 and by 4 January 2018 first subscriber activated.
I currently use TalkTalk Fibre to the Cabinet, this the same as BT Infinity, SKY, Plusnet etc, this means a fibre optic cable is brought from the local exchange to a street cabinet, from this the existing telephone copper cable is used for broadband and phone, depending how close you are to the cabinet will determine how fast your broadband is, in may case, I get a maximum speed of 62.79Mbps download, 17.34Mbps Upload and a Ping time of 17.34ms which is probably the best I can get (using Speedtest 15/11/17 @ 18:00).
I was delighted when I saw that the Virgin Media cable enabling works was scheduled for installation via Roadworks.org, bringing up to 300Mb speeds to Chatteris, this will give people an option, rather than be tied to telephone line provided services, so I thought I’d start this blog.
This speed test was done on the 25 Feb 18 @ 14.14 by directly connecting a cable to the TalkTalk router to compare FTTC with Virgin Media FTTH:
The infrastructure in my area was due to start on 4 August 17, expecting to last until the 14 August and I registered my interest in advance using Cable My Street.
My roads infrastructure work started on the 23 October 18 and was carried out very swiftly and with minimal mess considering the civil work required, the works was undertaken during school holidays to minimise any disruption, the crew were respectful of any request to get on and off the drive, also in my case I wanted the ‘Toby’ to be in a particular position, this wasn’t a problem and on the pictures below you can see the original point marking has been crossed out, and the new position marked as a red box.
Time lapse video of Virgin Media installing FTTH infrastructure.
The system we are getting from Virgin uses RF over Glass, with the infrastructure being installed by John Henry Group. This comprises of a fibre optic cable laid in a trench which is blown through a microduct tube from the nearest cabinet to the home after your order is placed.
- The wrapped Red and Green double tube is installed from the VMVH1 hub cabinets to the Level 3 (L3) street cabinets via solid ducts. Each tube has an Outside Diameter (OD) is 12mm one tube is used to transport 24 core fibre optic cable, the other bore is spare.
2. The single Red and Green has an OD of 8mm and carries 12 core fibre optic cable from the L3 cabinet to the Level 4 (L4) distribution board. The L3 cabinets are identified by having only two letter and two numbers stenciled on them.
3. The Green microbore is 8mm OD and is ran from the L4 cabinet to each ‘Toby’ outside the property.
4. Black microbore is the same dimensions as the Green microbore and is used from the Toby at the pavement to the house Omnibox.
5. 1.1mm diameter single mode fibre optical cable containing two fibres, I stripped the fibre back in the above picture, from the factory the fibre is pre-terminated.
The image below shows the microduct couplings in use within a pavement trench. Top picture taken at the junction of Dock Road and Bridges Street, bottom picture taken by the library shows a larger 12mm OD striped microduct.
Larger size microduct and coupling, (possibly for a multicore fibre, rather than a single fibre?).
Standards for reinstatement can be found HERE.
The marker tape which is put over the buried Virgin Media infrastructure and serves two purposes, the first is to allow detection using a Cable Avoidance Tool (CAT), the marker tape has two metal wires bonded to it, so the route of the tape can be found and traced from the surface without excavation, the second purpose is to warn that you are about to unearth or hit cables should you be digging.
VMSDI Level 4 Open Cabinet Picture – undergoing second-fix.
Click Map Pin on the corner of Ash Grove and High Street for more images of cabinet AF0113.
One of the towns two VMVH1 Nodal Cabinets
Inside VMVH1 supply pillar:-
Within the distribution board above is a smart RCD from Tii-Tech which is rather clever as it performs regular operational self tests to avoid the need for a person to visit the cabinet to do them. This write up from Gewiss explains how they work.
End of Line Termination Boxes
From the street termination box, a microduct coupling is used to extend the duct from the street cabinet to your outside wall, the fibre once blown through is connected to a media converter within the externally mounted Omnibox
Showing the three different coloursof Onmibox used in Chatteris, the last one is mine.
The media converter changes the fibres optical pulses of light into electrical data which a coaxial cable then takes to the Super Hub 3 Router and connectivity to the internet.
This configuration will give data transfer speeds of up to 300Mbps, a basic outline of how it connects together is below, the VM Datacentre is in Wisbech and Chatteris is fed by a direct fibre from their:
In advance of Virgin installing the infrastructure in the street I have put a conduit through the wall into a dry lining box with a blank please and installed a length of 20mm flexible conduit from the pavement Toby to the house wall, bit premature, but hey ho 🙂
Links to latest and archived Planning Permissions for Chatteris containing Virgin Media infrastructure works (remedial works have been excluded) :
- FEN 1-15th May
- FEN 1-15 Jun
- FEN 16-30 Jun
- FEN 1-15 Jul
- FEN 16-31 Jul
- FEN 1-15 Aug
- FEN 16-31 Aug
- FEN 1-15 Sept
- FEN 16-30 Sept
- FEN 1-15 Oct
- FEN 16-30 Oct
- FEN 1-15 Nov
- FEN 16-30 Nov
- FEN 1-15 Dec
- FEN 16 – 31 Dec
- FEN 1-15 Jan
- FEN 16 – 31 Jan
- FEN 1-15 Feb
- FEN 16-28 Feb
- FEN 1-15 Mar
- No further relevant Chatteris notifications
|Road||Start Date||Finish Date|
|Albert Way||24 Jul 17||11-Aug-17|
|Ash Grove||9 Jun 17||29 Jul 17
12 Oct 17
26 Oct 17
|Beckett Way||1 Sept 17||8 Sept 17
|Black Horse Lane||08-Aug-17||21-Aug-17|
|East Park Street||14-Aug-17||22-Aug-17|
|East bourne Road||10-Nov-17||30-Nov-17|
|Harold Heading Close||13-Nov-17||21-Nov-17|
|Hilda Clarke Close||23-Oct-17||27-Oct-17|
|James Gage Close||14-Nov-17||22-Nov-17|
|King Edward Road||03-Aug-17||09-Aug-17|
|Old Auction Yard||15-Aug-17||21-Aug-17|
|South Park Street||26-Aug-17||08-Sep-17|
|St Francis Drive||11-Sep-17||26-Sep-17|
|St James Close||21-Aug-17||30-Aug-17|
|St Martins Close||13-Dec-17||29-Dec-17|
|St Martins Road||08-Sep-17||12-Oct-17|
|St Pauls Drive||18-Aug-17||07-Sep-17|
|St Peters Drive||28-Aug-17||25-Sep-17|
|St Stephens Drive||18-Aug-17||01-Sep-17|
|West End Close||24-Nov-17||30-Nov-17|
|West Park Street||29-Sep-17||17-Oct-17|
|Willow Tree Close||02-Oct-17||06-Oct-17|