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UPD ISP Virgin Media UK Staying Stum on Future 200Mbps Broadband Service

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 (10:53 am) - Score 5,901
virgin media uk

Cable giant Virgin Media UK has told ISPreview.co.uk that it will launch a 200Mbps or faster (i.e. 400Mbps) broadband product only “when we think the time is right” (e.g. when consumers demand it), which is despite four years ago setting itself a launch target of 2012. So when will the time be right?

The operator first coined the existence of a 200Mbps (20Mbps uploads) product in July 2008 when its then Chief Technology Officer, Howard Watson, stated, “we are setting ourselves a vision of households using 200 MB per second by 2012,” he said (here). “The current technology that we’re investing in … has inherent within it that extra capability.”

The first official trials for its “wideband” 200Mbps product, which took place in Ashford, began a year later in 2009 (here) and is understood to have required the utilisation of 4 bonded channels. The service reared its head once again during March 2010 when it was publicly demoed at the annual Ideal Home Show event in Earls Court London (here).

Shortly after that (June 2010) events took a surprising turn when the operator’s Executive Director, Jon James, announced that they “could do 400Mbps” using EuroDOCSIS3 / DOCSIS3 technology. Back then this would have required Virgin to bond all 8 channels, which would of been costly and might have impeded their other services.

Since then the operator has launched and practically completed the roll-out of its 100Mbps broadband product. It’s even conducted trials of a 1.5Gbps (150Mbps upload) service in East London using the same network as its domestic customers (here). Furthermore Virgin plans to increase the top-speed of its broadband packages up to 120Mbps after this summer, which was first hinted at during their March 2012 campaign to double their customers broadband speeds (here).

A Virgin Media Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

You’ll know we’re about to start upping our top speed to 120Mb once the summer is out of the way. You’ll also recall our successful trial of 1.5Gb (or 1500Mb) back in early 2011 which rather superseded the 200Mb trials! We continue to test various speeds to be ready for when we think the time is right to pre-empt consumer demand and maintain our lead as the UK’s fastest widely available broadband company.”

Naturally Virgin Media, which runs a hybrid network of fibre optic and coaxial cable (with some copper too), is keen to ensure that BT’s up to 80Mbps FTTC and 330Mbps capable FTTP technology doesn’t erode its bragging rights. At present the operator suggests that BT’s offerings aren’t having “any negative impact on [their] numbers” (i.e. subscribers) and it doesn’t see the top-end FTTP solution as much of a threat due to its “small scale” (low coverage and uptake).

Some of that could change in Spring 2013 when BT makes its presently niche FTTP service available over FTTC lines via FTTP-On-Demand, although we anticipate that this might well be too expensive (installation) for most ordinary home owners. On top of that the vast majority of ordinary internet users would struggle to make full use of 100Mbps, let alone 330Mbps, not to mention that many ISPs have difficulty supplying enough economically viable capacity for such speeds.

In short, Virgin Media can afford to hold off on the launch of a 200Mbps or faster service this year. Instead its 120Mbps upgrade should keep BT’s future FTTC speed boosts (e.g. vectoring) in check for another year or so and FTTP isn’t likely to pose much of an immediate threat to its wider residential market (businesses may be another matter).

On the other hand Virgin has repeatedly shown that it likes to roll-out faster solutions well in advance of their competitors, which means that a 200Mbps or faster service could show up sooner than might be strictly necessary.

UPDATE 1:07pm

Separately Virgin Media has said that it is investigating a spate of data corruption issues on its network, which seem to occur when downloading files or trying to update apps via smartphones and tablets. Some customers report that the problem surfaced after they updated their SuperHub modem/routers from firmware R30 to R36 and can only resolve the problem by using a different router and switching the SuperHub itself into modem-only mode.

This issue is currently being discuss on Virgin’s technical support forum. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that VM’s SuperHub has had problems since its launch.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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54 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil

    Don’t care to be honest! Virgin Media is rubbish awful service! Worse ever!

  2. Avatar New_Londoner

    Interesting to know whether the current cable architecture is really up to this? BT can swap out individual copper lines for fibre to deliver 330Mbps, Virgin is stuck with shared coax, is already getting lots of complaints from users as the current 120Mbps service kills the service for others on the coax and often fails to deliver the promised speed anyway due to congestion.

    Is the current cable architecture really up to the job?

    • Avatar DTMark

      I’m not sure what you mean by ‘shared co-ax’ – if BT roll out FTTP on demand, is that shared fibre?

      The key to both is sufficient bandwidth/capability available at the cabinet nearest the end-user, and further back in the network. The same potential bottleneck occurs at the end user cabinet in both cases (and, again, further back, but from a TCO point of view it’s that last one that’s most important) as congestion begins to occur.

      However with VM’s segmented network, the time required to run round the country increasing the available bandwidth at the (increased number of) handover points would suggest that it would be sensible – when increasing the speeds for the 120Meg service (up and downstream) – and also prepping for IPv6 (!) – to put in enough bandwidth and sort out the channel bonding for the future. Or at least the forseeable future.

      It seems that they aren’t able to forsee the, er, forseeable future. VM has never been what I’d call a “strategic company”.

      I’d suspect that what they may be thinking is that they’ll wait for the price of FTTP on demand, and simply counter that with free/very cheap installation of the same capability whether fibre or co-ax; BT needs fibre just to get above about 30Meg in many cases. VM does not – the co-ax will do just fine, so it’s their basic and upgradeable offering (by flicking a switch, not doing any digging work).

      But then that comes back to having sufficient bandwidth to do that – bearing in mind both cable and FTTP on demand are “up to” services, not 1:1 so neither needs to run at the headline speed.

      But, competition raises standards.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      DTMark

      I think it means the xoax segment on the street is shared medium, one long piece of string basically. As opposed to individual feeds, so cable from home to cabinet, shared coax from that cabinet to the next cabinet (and son on) and eventually to the cabinet that has the fibre which is the backhaul to the POP

    • Avatar DTMark

      … a bit like exchange > cabinet > via ‘shared’ fibre to another cabinet > knackered old phone line to home in some instances…

      But, you’d have thought that VM’s plans would involve upgrading/supplementing the cab > cab links with fibre.

      Unless you have “proper” FTTP from some more centralised distribution point, right the way to the end user, then the “FTTN” (Fibre to the Neighbourhood) BT and VM networks will both suffer from congestion as it eventually runs out of capacity in specific areas.

      VM have an issue there because there’s a direct line of accountability. If it’s over-utilised, it’s VM’s fault, end of. With the FTTC BT-style arrangement the line of accountability becomes, shall we say, blurred.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Not really no, because that shared coax has a bandwidth limitation, the fibre “share” on FTTC can be 1G, 10G and beyond (just limited by optics) the coax run between your home to the fibre node on Virgin cable can be shared by hundreds of properties all sharing what… 300Mbps to the fibre cab.

    • Avatar DTMark

      But then that’s the point – or, that’s what I thought was the point – of their “network resegmentation” programme.

      After all, putting in more and more co-ax in this day and age would be like… well, like trying to run a fibre service over old phone lines.

  3. Avatar SlowSomerset

    What an BT doesn’t suffer with Congestion, could have fooled me, its nearly unusable where I live at peak time.

  4. Avatar Deduction

    FTTC is a rubbish contended service with lots of users having speed issues. Its all over BTs community forums. FTTP ON DEMAND no consumer will bother with as it will cost a fortune (I dread to think how much it will cost for people like me who have NO ducting between home and cabinet, with the rubbish copper buried only inches under the pavement).

    Virgin on the other hand top every single speed study from numerous organisations many of these reports appear on this very sites news. The 50Mb service according to these reports runs basically at 50Mb, as does the 100Mb. Any issues they have with supplying users with advertised speeds pale into insignificance compared to the garbage BT supply, with so called 80Mb FTTC products sometimes barely managing just over 20Mb (or not much more than a quarter of the so called UPTO speed).

    Long live Virgin cable, LLU companies and those constructing their own fibre networks, they are the only chance of any half decent REAL future broadband in this country.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      It’s interesting that the Ofcom stats suggest that FTTC is performing rather better than you suggest. And yes they also show good speed for Virgin …. But look again and study the jitter, latency stats (both indicators of contention) and you get a very different picture for cable.

      Presumably that’s why customer numbers for Virgin have been pretty static and it’s been losing market share for some time.

    • Avatar Deduction

      What ofcom report are you referring to with regards to stats on Jitter for both FTTC and VM Cable? There is no report covering that AFAIK.

      VM outperforms FTTC currently and will continue to do so, DOCSIS is a better system, always has been always will be, theres a reason big countries like the stats use a variant of it.

      Virgins sub numbers have over the past year have increased dunno what report you been reading there.

      Show me a single Ofcom report or independent report of all ISPs that indicate VM have trouble delivering their speeds.

      There isnt any because they dont exist…….. Its nothing more than a myth you BT trolls like to peddle in every Virgin story cos ya scared better products will affect your crappy BT share price.

      That damn simple. FTTC sucks, and you and the others/Multi nicks which people have to put up reading here just cant handle the facts.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Deduction
      As you’re clearly asking rhetorical questions I’ll leave you to actually read the Ofcom reports to discover for yourself the stats on jitter, latency. Enjoy, look forward to your apology in due course.

      BTW the reason much of the US uses cable is historic, due to the inability for most to receive terrestrial TV signals and the high cost of satellite. Cable systems spread to share the cost of the dish. Doesn’t indicate it’s in any way better, just that ithe coax was there, has been upgraded to carry broadband.

      Hope you get over your multi-id delusion at some point, not healthy to assume everyone that has a different point of view to you is in fact the same person. It happens in a free country, sorry but there you are.

    • Avatar Kyle

      I can certainly vouch for the utter rubbish FTTC is for me. I was on much better speeds with ADSL2+ and pings were always better than what I’m seeing now.

      I knew that I’d never get anywhere near the 70s. In fact, I was predicted 26.2/5.6. In actual fact, it’s averaged out at 15.7/0.45 on a line less than a mile long. The BTO engineer was astonished it could have been so wrong and how I was even provisioned to begin with.

    • Avatar DTMark

      15meg downstream doesn’t sound too unreasonable for, say, 600m of aluminium.

      The bit of wire is just way too long. You’d need to have the cabinet at the end of your drive. Or, a copper line.

      Still not quite sure why ADSL2+ would be faster, though. But VDSL2 is really pushing at the limits of what’s possible with these knackered old phone lines.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      DTMark how many of these knackered old phone lines are they? The Ofcom reports show the download speeds on FTTC to be good so, are they just the lucky ones?

    • Avatar Darren

      Deduction, your spouting rubbish, again.

      “FTTC is a rubbish contended service with lots of users having speed issues. Its all over BTs community forums.”

      There are no reports that relate to congestion, there are people using wireless G and wondering why they only get 20Mb and there are people with reduced sync due to the various reasons, but there are no reports of congestion as far as I can see.

      Having used FTTC myself for nearly two years I can’t say I have experienced anything but solid throughput and latency at all times.

      Yes FTTC is not ideal and has it’s downside but on the whole it is an improvement and it’s giving the majority a fast connection, something knowone else can do at the moment.

      If you had your way FTTC wouldn’t exist and we would all be stuck with ADSL. I’m glad you don’t and we are not.

    • Avatar Deduction02

      BT already know it can and does suffer congestion….
      http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/updates/briefings/super-fastfibreaccessbriefings/super-fastfibreaccessbriefingsarticles/nga00612.do

      quote”What speed will lines with the 80/20 product variant receive when the network is congested?

      Openreach has implemented a downstream Prioritisation Rate (PR) for each of our downstream product bandwidth variants. In the event of network congestion, we will decrease line speeds momentarily to reduce the congestion as follows:”

      Run along, and dream up a new name. Though it doesnt help whichever ID you use it talks nonsense.

    • Avatar Darren

      Haha now I’m being accused of being a multi ID.

      Good to see you can’t backup your claim of congestion. I’d expect nothing more from you. Delusional as ever, it’s you who is dreaming.

      Looking at the times you post, you either have no life or are more than one person yourself.

      @everyone, I suggest we just ignor this troll/employee(s) of a BT competitor.

    • Avatar DTMark

      @FibreFred – I don’t think anyone knows, do they?

      Local engineers in local patches probably know.

      Round here, I can say with some certainty. The average ADSL sync as a percentage of the theoretical for the line lengths is about 55% (e.g. a 3680m line syncs at 2Meg, not 5Meg and so on). Approximately 70% of the lines underperform. One actually overperforms. Perhaps they’re just very poor here.

      I’d previously suggested that about 15% of lines across the country might be “substandard”.

    • Avatar Deduction02

      No i cant back it up, BT done it thereself for me. LMFAO

    • Avatar Deduction

      Oh and as that was wrongly removed also.

      Thank you to kyle again for confirmation on what i stated about FTTC.

      Again there is no abuse in thanking an individual

    • Avatar Darren

      What! And so the Delusion continues (supprise there then), OK I’ll spell it out for you.

      You said the BT forums are full of people suffering congestion, they are not and you can’t link to anything that shows this, so instead you link to an openreach page which shows they have a strategy for dealing with congestion should it occur. Two quite different things.

      While people on VM suffer congestion it can go on for months before it’s fixed. Wheras people on BT enjoy an instant mechanism to mitigate the effect on services with a resolution no more than a few days away.

      Your claim was complete BS and you know it, or at least you should. Please go and daydream somewhere else.

    • Avatar Deduction02

      BT claim it thereself you trolling complaining retarded idiot…..
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2012/07/isp-virgin-media-uk-staying-stum-on-future-200mbps-broadband-service.html#comment-15123

      Oh and before that gets removed AGAIN for abuse i suggest you remove his post above also for starting the abuse. If you are going to remove my posts everytime this troll idiot complains, lets have the rules enforced for all shall we.

      Either way ill keep responding, i couldnt give a stuff how much time the idiot wastes moaning or how much time it takes to all be removed if the place cant be policed fairly.

    • Avatar Darren

      That’s right revert to abusive because you are in the wrong. BT aren’t claiming anything, that’s you and your claims are wrong as I’ve explained.

    • Avatar Deduction

      Very clear to everyone else…
      http://www.openreach.co.uk/orpg/home/updates/briefings/super-fastfibreaccessbriefings/super-fastfibreaccessbriefingsarticles/nga00612.do

      quote”What speed will lines with the 80/20 product variant receive when the network is congested?

      Openreach has implemented a downstream Prioritisation Rate (PR) for each of our downstream product bandwidth variants. In the event of network congestion, we will decrease line speeds momentarily to reduce the congestion as follows:”

    • Avatar Darren

      “Very clear to everyone else”
      Haha indeed it is, the lights are on but unfortunatly knowone is home. Else your a troll. Either way I’ll not try explaining it to you again because it’s clearly not going in. If you genuinely want to understand feel free to re-read my posts.

    • Avatar Phonic

      I’ve just moved to VirginMedia from BT FTTC Infinity product(I now get the speeds I pay for, and it works).

      My line like many others on the BT customer care forum is not even copper, so the short distance I was from the new FTTC cab, ended up with a slow and very unstable service.

      I had 5 engineer visits, and all they could say… “it’s the Aluminium, and BT will not replace with copper due to cost”. when it work the modem could only sync at 49Mb or less and 7Mb Up.. after being told I would get 20up and 80Mb down. Even the line checker on their site is misleading customers into thinking they would get those speeds.

      I get full speeds in my area under Virgin Media, and pay less. BT Infinity 80/20 service is the same old DSL story, but more unstable especially if run over Aluminium.

  5. Avatar Deduction02

    @New_Londoner So there is no report about jitter on products from ofcom. Thankyou for the clarification on not being able to provide any evidence of your claims again.

    @Kyle Thank you for demonstrating part of what i stated is true.

    No idea why this was removed previously.

  6. Avatar New_Londoner

    @Deduction
    You didn’t ask for the report, just told me it didn’t exist?  The report is referenced at

    http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2011/10/Virgin-Media-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_162278.aspx

    With the ASA ruling neatly summarising the point for me.  No need to thank me, Gadget!

  7. Avatar Elias

    @New_Londoner customer numbers for Virgin continue to grow with over 100,000 net adds YoY. It may not be as high as those that operate at the budget end of the market but Virgin has positioned itself as a premium service and as such attracts high end users, enjoys stronger broadband ARPU and higher margins than all of its major rivals including BT, Sky and TalkTalk – Its super fast broadband customer base increased by 459,800 during the last quarter alone.

    Virgin was first to gain mass market acceptance and even today enjoys strong market lead over all of its rivals including BT. It’s not just about market share either, it’s how you monetise the service and with roughly 40% market share in its serviceable areas Virgin Media accounts for 70% of all broadband margins.

  8. Avatar Babis

    We all know VM has more jitter/latency even are not official reports so please with respect stop arguing all of you…

    Since my area has been updated jitter latency is much better and at ping test it hits ) at some times
    http://www.pingtest.net/result/67261584.png

    As a VM customer If the faster speeds are true of course is welcome and hope faster Upload than FTTP (just 30mbps?? out of the 330 down)

  9. Avatar SlowSomerset

    So how will the BDUK projects get over 24Mbs then or will this only be at off peak times or will it be the same old storie with congestion at peak times when must poeple really want to use it when they are not woorking ?.

  10. Avatar Zebady

    So the article is clear in that demand for higher speeds just isn’t there (from enough people) and only competition from other providers might push them on.

    I guess its difficult to persuade a £5 a month user on an unlimited 20Mbps package to pay £20 for 50Mbps let alone 100+ at whatever price!

    20Mbps is more then enough for all services today unless you’ve got a family running p2p and multiple streaming sessions on the go at the same time.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Agreed, which is what I’ve been saying for ages.

      The government and Europe are shouting.. “fibre to the home everywhere” (sorry no way to pay for it tho) most of us are saying “cheap as chips please, don’t care about 50/100Mbps”

  11. Avatar SlowSomerset

    I would love a constant 20Mbps but can they deliver that even at peak times if not what good is it I would not expect not to be able to boil my kettle at peak times or make a phone call would I.

  12. Avatar sam

    pretty pointless, their superhub firmware is awful and they keep delaying the double speed upgrade, it said july for my, now it says august, some people’s now says may 2013. Virgin need to concentrate on getting the router firmware sorted and the speed upgrades to 120mb and double speed upgrades sorted, maybe then consider 200mb.

    • Avatar Phil

      sam, I doubt that Virgin will bring 200Mb to customers not until BT bring out 200Mb to everyones first because BT FTTC is now up to 80/20 while Virgin Media had the fastest 100/5. There are not many customers who will get 330 with BT FTTP or Virgin Media 200/20 (probably small business for now)

      I agree that Virgin Media should get double speed fast as they can but I think the completed of double speed will likely last through 2013 now. I think Virgin Media upload is rather poor indeed.

  13. Avatar zemadeiran

    VC are probably fully aware that docsis is going the way of the dodo…

    How far can a fiber pair be pushed? 1gbps, 10gbps, 100gpbs, 1tbps….

    Copper is dead and the whole telecoms market knows it. VC will probably turn around and run fttp from their existing cabinets if they already have fiber backhaul running to said cabinets.

    If they don’t then they are fucked.

    Thank you.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      Hmm well its not like that at present their isn’t fibre to each VM cab, it goes to a master cab in an area (FTTN) that cabinet feeds all of the cabinets close to the homes via coax.

      Converting the existing VM network to full FTTP will be costly.

  14. Avatar telecom engineer

    Who needs 200meg at home? Sat on 80/20 i do nothing i didnt with 40/10, which aside from large download two or three times a year i see no benefit over the 6 meg adsl aside from the upload which was great for friends streaming from my nas etc.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      “Who needs 200meg at home?”

      Based on the take up of their own 100Mbps product, not many I reckon

  15. Avatar BadlyTrippn

    Virgin Media, crushes FTTC. Only people that think otherwise are dumb BT employees

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