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Virgin Media O2 trial lays foundations for sustainable network expansion

UK telco announces successful demo in using recycled aggregate while building network in Glasgow, which could lead to massively reduced carbon emissions per year in future network build outs

In its first major act since coming into operation at the start of June, Virgin Media O2 has declared success surrounding its trial in Glasgow to use recycled materials while expanding its ultrafast broadband network in the city.

The operator used recycled aggregate while building new infrastructure in the Cranhill area in a bid toto reduce its environmental impact as it delivers fibre services to homes and businesses.

The trial, which was completed with support from Glasgow City Council and planning and design specialists C-Plan, saw the company use recycled stone and sand when reinstating the ground after laying fibre cables in two Glasgow streets.

This is said to contrast with the normal case for network build out, whereby telecommunications companies use new materials sourced from quarries when building or expanding their network.

Virgin Media O2 said the success of the trial, which saw the sustainably sourced materials undergo on-site testing and monitoring, paves the way for more expansive use of recycled materials in future.

“In every area of our business – whether it’s through the design of our products, the way we operate, or the materials we use when we’re building new network – we’re constantly evolving to help in the fight against climate change,” said Rob Evans, managing director of fixed network expansion at Virgin Media O2.

“This trial shows our commitment to doing things differently and reducing our environmental impact as we bring gigabit services to more homes and businesses on the streets of Glasgow and help to upgrade the UK.”

Angus Millar, chair of the Digital Glasgow board, added: “Schemes such as this carbon-reduction project in Glasgow help the city to meet its ambition to become net-zero carbon by 2030.

“We were pleased to work with Virgin Media O2 on this project to reduce their environmental impact, and are always open to any such proposals – we all have to work together to tackle the challenges of climate change.”

As it establishes its new brand, Virgin Media O2 will continue the work carried out by Virgin Media in an accelerated roll-out of its gigabit network throughout the UK, with the aim to combine its connectivity, people and brands to accelerate action on climate change.

The telecommunications firm has completed several trials to help improve the speed and sustainability of network expansion, with the company set to deliver gigabit broadband to its entire network by the end of 2021. It has set a goal of achieving net zero carbon operations (scopes 1 and 2) by the end of 2025.

The operator has also committed to using its gigabit and 5G connectivity to help power smart technology to lay the foundation for a low-carbon future for the UK. With more than 100,000 tonnes of aggregate used each year by the Project Lightning network expansion programme, Virgin Media O2 calculates that switching to recycled aggregate could save more than 450 tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

In March this year, Virgin Media performed what it said was a business first by using a combination of construction techniques to connect thousands of homes in Swadlincote, South Derbyshire, in a low-impact build.

In addition to the more commonly used narrow trenching techniques, the company installed new cables in existing underground ducts and used Openreach’s overhead telegraph poles to connect the area.

This helped to reduce the need to build new infrastructure, minimise disruption to local people and the environment, and enable a more efficient and faster roll-out of the operator’s gigabit capable network.

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