Up to two million businesses and homes in remote rural areas could get high-speed broadband if trials of a 50Mbps broadband service in two Cornish towns proves its technical and commercial viability.
Vtesse CEO Aidan Paul said the first trial would test whether it was technically possible to use VDSL2 cable TV technology to deliver superfast broadband to remote rural areas. If that proves itself, a commercial trial would begin.
The service will deliver Virgin Media's range of next-generation broadband and digital TV services to communities at least 3.5km from the nearest street cabinet, he said.
The two towns are Higher Pill in Saltash, and Hatt, a community to the north west of the town. Aidan Paul said more than 400 buildings in total would be hooked up, giving around 1,000 people broadband access.
The firms would use VDSL2 on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) services supplied and managed by Vtesse. Extra support would come from the Babcock-led NGN Kernow consortium of large firms that have invested in Cornwall.
Virgin Media executive director for broadband Jon James said, "This is an important project for Virgin Media and demonstrates our ambition to extend our next generation services to areas outside our traditional cable TV footprint.
"As well as placing two rural communities at the vanguard of the digital revolution, the trials will provide much needed understanding of the technical and economic viability of delivering next generation access to areas that have traditionally thought to be commercially problematic," said Jon James.
Vtesse's Paul said if the trials worked out and there was a supportive regulatory policy, it could be feasible to provide 50Mbps to two million homes and small businesses that currently have little or no chance of getting high speed services under present network roll-out plans.
BT plans to upgrade 40% of its national network to a similar fibre to the cabinet, VDSL2+ service by 2012. But the investment aims at densely populated areas where the return will be highest.