Christopher's Broom Cupboard Rotating Header Image

Photos: inside a Virgin Media cable street cabinet

Once upon a time (way back in 2007!), I was walking home and noticed the door on my road’s Telewest distbox was hanging open (the lock had been forced). Having always wondered what was in one of those unassuming grey (or green) street cabs, I decided to have a quick look… And take some pictures. (And yes, I did let Telewest know the box had been broken into afterwards)

If you notice some of Virgin Media’s “street furniture” that needs some looking after, use the form on their web site to let them know: http://allyours.virginmedia.com/forms/cabinet.html.

30 Comments

  1. Dave says:

    Very interesting to see inside one of these street cabinets but do you know of anything I can do to stop the loud humming noise that comes from the one near my house. (legally of course) We have contacted Virgin many times but they don’t seem to want to know. I know I am clutching at straws by asking you but the dam noise is driving me insane. Thank’s for listening, regards, Dave

    1. Christopher says:

      Hi Dave,

      Is the humming really loud? If so the Council might be willing to get involved if it’s distracting the peace of you and others around you. Environmental Protection Officers (i.e. noise assessment officers) can come out and install noise measuring equipment if it’s really loud – sometimes they’ll just do a spot check and go yes/no based on their experience.

      If it sounds like a transformer on its way out or something which is not operating within normal parameters, it might be worth ringing VM and reporting the equipment as faulty – what might make them move is if you call them and report having seen someone tampering with the equipment inside the box. As that could have resulted in peoples’ service being affected, I expect they’d be more inclined to send an engineer out to take a look (at which point he would likely discover the faulty component).

      Can you tell roughly which component’s sick from where the noise is emanating from?

  2. Dave says:

    Hello there Chris, thank’s for your reply. I did threaten them with talk of me going to my local MP and local radio station and they did get back to me with a promise that an engineer would be out within 48hrs, which he was, so I did get some satisfaction in the end. They told me that the e-mails I had sent didn’t get through as there was a breakdown in the system (yeh!) Perhaps a man from Mars answered my phone calls. Anyway thank’s for taking an interest. Dave

  3. sheena doran says:

    Hi there,
    I have the same problem with a noisy box outside my garden, it hums louder and softer during the day, I have been chatting with a neighbour just yesterday, who has been in touch with the local radio station, local MP and Virgin themselves, she had no joy, I did suggest to her that maybe if we got a few signatures from the neighbouring houses and pass them onto Virgin, it may help our case. I havent written yet myself, but will be this week, its second on my list as at the moment I have a central networks sub station and alleyway to it at the bottom of my garden which is full of thistles and constantly contaminates my garden with weeds….. I have been past various Virgin boxes and noticed how quiet they are in comparison ( not that im an anorak or anything,! ) I will try the “saw someone tampering” ploy and see if I get anywhere, thanks for the tips.
    By the way I love to see the pics of the inside of things, very interesting, and it bought a memory back from my child hood ( 1060’s) that I ‘d forgotten, my brother used to regularly stand facinated behind the post office men with thier morris or viva vans(i think) when they were repairing the boxes in the street, they’d give him some of the old bits to play with, and we’d call the little wires with blobs on “telegoons” !!… ..sheena.

    1. Christopher says:

      Likewise, I love seeing inside things, underneath covers, what people don’t normally see. I went to a CD pressing plant in Blackburn in 2007 (with my work) and I was utterly transfixed, glad I took my camera because the place was shut down a year later by its German owners!

  4. richard says:

    hello chris ive just about solved my problem useing sound boards having got to the point of desperation and no thanks to virgin media send me an e mail if you still need a solution i tried evry way posible useing insulation i told vm that i would bring this to public attention if nothing was don ime now makeing it my mission to make a big noise about this all leagle of course vm will wish they had nevver upset me i nearly got devorced through this the pure uncaring ignorance of vm is unbeleivable i anyway hope your ok i know what this can do to people richard

  5. richard says:

    Hello Chris ive just about solved my problem by using sound boards having got to the point of desperation and no thanks to virgin media, i’ve tried every posible way to stop the noise that filters into my home. which i do believe comes from the street cabinets, by using insulation. I did tell vm via letter that i would bring this to public attention if nothing was done. I’ve also reported the on-going noise pollution to the environmental health but as yet have not received a reply from them.

  6. terrel says:

    These fiber optic look coaxial cable are they?

    1. Christopher says:

      They are; there’s currently no nationwide FTTC / FTTP in the UK (just VERY limited trials with the promise of future rollout). Virgin Media is today what was once two larger operators (Telewest and NTL) who themselves absorbed many small regional operators, so the network is very fragmented and in quite a few cases very oversubscribed.

      The UK cable infrastructure is actually closer to Fibre to the Cabinet than anything else; the national backbones (fibre) run to regional headends, where the Cisco UBRs sit. From there, it’s more fibre to the street cabs where it terminates and the signal is transmitted along coax to homes. I was once told this was due to the UK’s rather obtuse Health & Safety laws regarding unprotected high power laser light in peoples’ homes but I’m not so sure about that (I have a feeling it was technological constraints and cost savings that established the hybrid coax/fibre network the UK has today). Most of the Virgin Media network is DOCSIS3, but this upgrade came very late in comparison to the States.

      Aside from “cable” internet, we have a limited rollout of VDSL2+ (by BT, who are calling it BT Infinity, and who are marketing it as “fibre broadband” to compete against Virgin Media). This uses fibre to newly installed street cabs, and VDSL2+ over the customer’s existing copper telephone line to their premises. I’m personally on Local Loop Unbundled ADSL2+ (LLU is where ISPs install their own equipment in BT exchanges alongside the original BT equipment, allowing them to move customers’ service onto their own network and backhaul as soon as it reaches the exchange, instead of having to transit entirely over the expensive BT nationwide network). Because I’m fortunately <100m from my exchange I get solid 24Mbps download and 2.5Mbps upload with Annex M enabled 😀

  7. keith says:

    could anyone tell me what the colour code sections meen!! 29dB 22dB 18dB,, ect ect
    we have one outside the house , i have the same thing as my friend next door , yet he is in a differant colour code ????? what is it for PLEASE HELP

    1. Christopher says:

      The coloured labels by the tap points denote attenuation levels; the longer the line to a customer’s premises the more attenuation the line will have, simple physics unfortunately. I think they likely have the rows clearly labelled simply for service engineers to quickly understand patch panel layout.

      A short line with too powerful a signal being sent down it has the potential to cause damage to the CPE (i.e., cable modem) or induce crosstalk. DOCSIS3 (i.e., their 50 MB and 100 MB services) are far less susceptible to this problem (but I still don’t rule it out affecting DOCSIS3 connections).

      Jonbxx on AVForums explained it pretty well in 2007:

      It’s more to do with the quality of the signal. A cable engineer explained to me that the output power from the green box in the street is set so it’s OK for the furthest cabled property from the box. Nearer properties have their signals attenuated in the green box [street cab / dist. box — Chris] to compensate for the shorter lengths of cable used.

      Sometimes, the signal can still be a little high at the end of the cable in your house so they put an attenuator on your cable which is what you have there. It’s easier to sort the levels at your box than running backwards and forwards from the street cabinet, adjusting levels.

      If you want an excellent technical primer on power levels and SNR on the VM cable network, read this on the community forums: http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Up-to-100Mb-broadband/POWER-LEVELS-amp-SNR-A-TECHNICAL-PRIMER-Nov-2011/td-p/846181.

      Also useful to read up:
      http://www.cableforum.co.uk/board/12/33681678-11dbmv-ds-power-level-s.html
      http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Fibre-optic-broadband-cable/Using-a-non-Virgin-Media-cable-modem-possible/td-p/10066/page/4
      Also of note, discussion about FPAs (Forward Path Attenuators, basically power sinks): http://www.cableforum.co.uk/board/12/33683997-forward-path-attenuators.html.

      Also if you’re reading threads and notice cryptic references to SID or SBD / CAB areas, BOMs etc. these are all industry-specific acronyms; see this thread for an explanation.

  8. B says:

    Took a picture of an open street cabinet a few weeks ago and two plainclothes police officers popped out of nowhere, stopped me and questioned my “odd” behavior, insinuated I was a squatter, and even after I produced my house keys and showed them the various other pictures on my camera of my cat, my car and a local river, they still were apparently not convinced.

    1. Christopher says:

      Outstanding. Did you also take time to remind them of your right to take photos of whatsoever you like in public?

  9. Paul says:

    I know this might seem like an odd question, but do you happen to know if Virgin Media do (or ever have since about 2007) used brown cables (rather than black) to run up the side of a property? There’s a property (well, a flat in a block) I’m looking at and VM claim it’s not cabled up, however looking on Street View I can see a few flats have cables running up the wall to them (but not every). They seem to be a light brown colour (perhaps to contrast with the colour of the brick work?) and can only see the box that one of them is coming from. It doesn’t look like as usual brown box they use, as although it’s still brown it’s quite a bit bigger. I won’t get to return to the property again until mid next week at the earliest to check for sure. It has really got my curiosity peaked about what it could be.

    1. Paul says:

      To answer my own question (partially, still haven’t figured out what for but will next week)… a plastic brown cover over black cables. I can see the black cables protruding from one of the cable covers before they run into the wall.

    2. Christopher says:

      I have seen some properties with brown cable. BT do use black cables but it’s not beyond wit that they use brown insulation.

      One logical conclusion might be that the properties were cabled at some point but were disconnected from the street cabs after the residents stopped subscribing to services. If VM then filled the street cab to capacity with connections to other properties there might be no space available to reconnect the property, so they blithely declare that the property “isn’t cabled”. It’s disingenuous, but I had the same thing happen to me at one property until I pushed and got put through to the voicemail for the regional installation team (left my details and had someone call me to arrange a visual inspection of the property).

      It turned out that the converted flat behind our house had already taken up services so was showing as having taken our ‘slot’ and the engineer had used the run of cable laid originally for our house and routed it around the back to the flat. They fitted us in to the street cab though and ran a new length of cable, so it may be possible. The engineer drilled up and into a first floor room to install the cable connection (as did a BT engineer a year prior to that) so when they want to, they can install to a property as long as there’s space on a street cab. You might be put on a street cab further away than the one geographically closest to you but it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

  10. Cenzo says:

    Hi

    I know this is along shot as the thread about the “Humming Noise” was a few years back?

    But we are having the same issue outside our house and it is very annoying as it keeps me awake pretty much all the night? i have even been to my doctors thinking that it was something going on in my head but i have now managed to work out that is the big green box outside?

    Question is….

    Has anyone on here managed to get there noise sorted out? did VM doing anything as soon as possible?

    Hope someone can help?

    Thanks…

    1. Noisy green box says:

      We have the same problem – does anyone know who to complain to? Thanks!

      1. Christopher says:

        Virgin Media in the first instance – they may be more minded to send an engineer if you can explain that the noise could be the symptom of failing equipment. If nothing happens and it’s disturbing your sleep, most councils have pretty proactive Noise Abatement teams. 😉 let us know how you get on…

  11. Noisy Green Box says:

    Thanks Christopher. Just to let you know I saw a Virgin engineer and he said it’s a BT Openreach box so I’ll have to get onto them next. Will keep you posted. This is a great forum, thanks for organising it!

    1. Christopher says:

      Aha! They do look similar (Openreach FTTC cabs tend to be ‘chunkier’, taller and less wide with a vent on the front door). I’ve seen some good photos inside those cabs online, I’ll dig out the links.

  12. […] on from the Virgin Media street cab article, I came across a PCP last week with the doors left unlocked (and wide open to the elements!) I […]

  13. Matt says:

    Hi,

    Nearly 2 weeks ago a car hit one of those green cabinets about 100 meters down the road from my house. Have been without fibre optic since then. However my isp Sky nor bt who will be fixing it seem to be able to give me a repair date. In fact bt flat out refuse to speak to me as I’m a sky customer “contact your isp! “

  14. Matt says:

    https://www.dropbox.com/sc/tbh8i2pa18rmlm6/AAD-H7UcoR_QP5E41sXuGx0ka

    Not sure if that link works, photo of the destroyed cabinet, anyway, does anyone have any ideas approx how long it will take to get the Internet back and working? Months and months? Another week?
    Thanks 😉

    1. Christopher says:

      Yikes! That’s the definition of totalled… Is your phone service still gone too? The Universal Service Obligation requires them to restore that service, and chances are they’ve already ordered replacement kit but might be waiting for authorization from the council (or sufficient manpower from contractors) to do the streetworks.

      I’d tweet a copy of the photo to @btcare and @btbusinesscare with the post code and date of the damage, they’re fairly responsive. Good luck! Let me know how it goes…

  15. Matt says:

    All sorted now, there was a bt fibre team there this morning and my wife just informed me it’s back on!

    So the answer is 2 weeks to get you back up and running when your green exchange cabinet is destroyed.

    Thanks for the reply Chris.

    1. Christopher says:

      Excellent news. Now, have you noticed faster speeds than before? If so, my cabinet might have to befall some random misfortune… 😉

  16. Matt says:

    Actually when I got home I found this was in place, not a green cabinet. Spoke to the engineers, apparently this unit came down from Woking and there are only 6 of these units in the country. That’s not many I think considering. Anyway, they have to change the battery on these things once a day he said.
    And also the guy who owns the house has asked bt for the new D-Slam to be positioned against the wall because where it was was obscuring his view of oncoming traffic when coming in and out of his driveway. So we may have this yellow beauty for a while. https://www.dropbox.com/sc/rccmh892cuyeoxb/AABn3yqRHZI1hUAx9SB_15iXa

    1. Christopher says:

      Top photos, mind if I add them to the article? Me and the nerds love this kind of stuff! (now, if you could gently prise open the little yellow door and take some pics of what’s in there… 😉

  17. Matt says:

    Yes of course, help yourself, I’ll also see if I can snatch an inner workings photo at some point.

Leave a Reply to Photos: inside a 'vintage' BT street cabinet | ChrisWoods.co.uk