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UPDATE Virgin Media UK to Begin Broadband Speed Upgrades to 152Mbps

Saturday, February 1st, 2014 (1:30 am) - Score 12,779

Customers of Virgin Media’s (Liberty Global) national UK cable network can expect to start receiving a significant broadband download speed boost, at no extra cost, when the operator this month begins rolling out its latest network upgrades and pushes their top package speeds up to 152Mbps (Megabits per second).

The phased deployment, which was first announced last November (here), is expected to last for 12 months and should complete during early 2015. The result is that customers on Virgin’s popular entry-level 30Mbps package will, for example, receive a headline boost up to 50Mbps and other packages should see a similar jump.

Virgin’s Broadband Speed Boost (Examples)
Current Package: 30Mbps – New Speed: 50Mbps [3Mbps upload]
Current Package: 60Mbps – New Speed: 100Mbps [6Mbps upload]
Current Package: 100/120Mbps – New Speed: 152Mbps [12Mbps upload]

Sadly the operators upload speeds will remain the same as they are today. But it’s worth pointing out that Virgin has historically boosted upload speeds too and it often does this as part of a semi-separate process (i.e. uploads will probably increase again in the near future).

One notable downside to the development though is that customers will also see their cable bills rise by an average of 6.7% this month (excluding some things like the home phone talk plans), which many view as being designed to help fund the latest speed boost.

Some customers will also need a new SuperHub router before they can upgrade and Virgin has promised to supply this at no extra cost (we suspect that this will mostly apply to the older 30Mbps and slower subscribers). The move could place extra pressure on BT, which is currently only able to offer a top mass market speed of up to 80Mbps via Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) technology.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media’s CEO, said last year:

We are boosting speeds again and ensuring our customers can get even more value from their Virgin Media subscription. Our top speed will be twice as fast as BT and all the others reliant on their old copper telephony infrastructure as we extend our lead as Britain’s ultrafast broadband provider.”

Ofcom’s May 2013 data showed that the average speed delivered on Virgin’s cable platform was 34.9Mbps, which compares with 43.6Mbps on FTTC. But this is mostly because the bulk of Virgin’s subscribers use the 30Mbps package and that will change after the upgrade. Meanwhile BT is busy testing Vectoring technology for FTTC, which could help them to keep pace (note: no clear ETA for that has been confirmed).

It’s worth pointing out that a small number of Virgin Media’s subscribers, so far mostly those on the older 20Mbps or 30Mbps packages, have already reported a recent jump to the new speed of 50Mbps. We have repeatedly asked Virgin to comment on this and various other aspects of the speed boost but they continue to reply, “there’s no further update at the moment“.

In addition Virgin Media still has plenty of legacy packages and many of those will also be able to upgrade. For example, some subscribers on the 20Mbps product should jump right to 50Mbps (provided you’re in a digital cable area).

UPDATE 26th February 2014

The Virgin Media website should update tomorrow (27th) to reflect their headline change in broadband speeds up to 152Mbps, which will match what we posted above.

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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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27 Responses
  1. Avatar FibreFred

    I don’t think this will put any pressure on BT in the slightest.

    Just because Virgin force (and they do force) download speed upgrades on their customers it doesn’t mean the customer wants or needs those speeds.

    Historically if you look at the take up of Virgin’s packages its always the lowest speed package that is the most popular, so most of their customer base will move from 30 to 50Mbps, doesn’t mean they are doing everything different or need the speed.

    I’ve said it many times before and I’m positive it still rings true. If Virgin still had a 20Mbps download package an overwhelming percentage of their customers would be on it and most would not touch 30, 50, 60, 100, 120, 152 download packages.

    If there was a genuine mass requirement for these speeds I’m sure BT and other ISP’s would respond but… there isn’t.

  2. Avatar Unknown101

    Hopefully they start to release vectoring results soon and complete a mass roll out of vectoring. I think Virgin are loosing customers to FTTC at the moment, when vectoring is released it should allow BT customers <400m achieve over 100mbs with a good quality copper line, although I know it's not a speed booster for people already achieving good speeds it's more for the long lines to achieve a decent speed. Although you never know what BT could do with it maybe three packages 40,80,120 (for those only near the cabinets)

  3. Avatar FibreFred

    I suppose Virgin have to do something though, they are stuck in their footprint rut and not expanding, Virgin are loosing customers to FTTC so they are playing the “look at uswe are faster” card, which doesn’t really work as those that are moving from Virgin to FTTC may well be taking a speed equivalent or even reduction anyway.

    • Avatar sam

      If BT wants to take on virgin they should offer some lower cost 30Mbps FTTC connections at a low cost, like how you can get adsl2+ broadband from them as their fttc broadband is much more expensive than virgin’s 30Mbps broadband.

    • Virgin Media Q4-2012 results, total 4,465,000

      Virgin Media Q3-2013 results, total 4,488,600

      Slow growth as they only cover half the population and haven’t expanded their network, never the less the overall total is an increase and not a decrease.

    • Avatar FibreFred

      It is an increase yes, but not much compared to FTTC uptake. They can still be losing custom to FTTC and increase their total customer base. Without FTTC their increase could have been much higher.

    • Avatar Ignitionnet

      Apples and oranges. You’d need statistics on who is new to xDSL altogether to properly compare and be able to factually claim that Virgin are losing customers to FTTC.

      Not to mention that comparing FTTC uptake, a product that’s still being rolled out but already covers more homes than Virgin, to a well established cable product that’s been deployed to hardly anywhere new is again not very fair.

      VM’s markets are saturated and a slow down, regardless of outside influences, was to be expected. FTTC is for many an upgrade to their existing service rather than a new purchase, in a similar manner to a VM customer moving from 30Mb to 60Mb most FTTC is people moving from ADSL to VDSL rather than from VM to VDSL.

      VM are still the biggest ISP in their covered areas.

    • Avatar Hypocrite State

      As a current FTTC user, virgin will be my next ISP. Knowing i will sync at the rate i pay for rather than the slow 26Mb on FTTC and the fact they have won customer service awards i suspect will make my experience much more pleasurable than it has been on FTTC.

    • Avatar MikeW

      I have the choice of Virgin or Openreach-based FTTC.

      I chose FTTC because of the risk, on Virgin, that a few rogue properties max out the cable segment, and make the whole neighbourhood unusable.

      As far as I can tell, this new raise in headline speed does not raise the speed of the shared cable segment. That would appear to mean that it would take fewer rogue properties to saturate the shared segment… so increasing the risk.

      On top of this, Virgin are being forced (market-wise) to gradually remove their traffic management of the rogues. So when saturation happens, Virgin have fewer tools to deal with it.

      I need “enough” speed, certainly not the maximum, but I do need good reliability – and the ability to depend on this throughout the contract. This isn’t a feature of Virgin’s offering.

    • Avatar Hypocrite State

      Virgin works well for my neighbour they can get 120Mb 24/7, i foolishly did not even think of Virgin at the time i moved here. Congestion issues seem to be very limited now and only in some districts of city centres.

  4. Avatar sam

    Virgin has cancelled their 10:1 upload speed ratio “double speed” btw. They told use that 60Mmbps users would get 6Mbps and 30Mbps users would get 3Mbps but they now admit that won’t be happening on their forums. I’m not confident that we will even get an upload speed increase from these speed upgrades either.

    Our upload speeds are remaining the same and their prices are going up. Can’t wait until FTTC is available in my area, would save a lot of money with a triple play package from another company.

  5. Avatar New_Londoner

    Interesting to see if this free speed boost is followed by a price increase, just like last time.

    The big issue for many is really upload speeds, as most don’t use the full download bandwidth much, if at all. Also, these boosts bring into focus policies on usage limits, speed restrictions etc once again.

  6. Avatar Tron

    Virgin are a bunch of crooks, endless hassles with them when it comes to billing and the sooner FTTC comes in my area the better. I am making do with a 4 meg line but refuse to deal with virgin ever again. They treat loyal customers like dung. Virgin already have increased their prices of £2.50 so if they increase prices again which they will as upgrades cost money then you’re really paying for it all anyway. Another marketing gimmick which really should be stopped. Uploads are very poor and with all the limits etc with virgin I don’t see the point in their services.

  7. Avatar finaldest

    Virgins customer base wont grow because its network is in an awful state and their overseas customer service has a lot to be desired.

    I moved over to Sky FTTC from VM 120mb service in 2013. I initially chose the 40/10 package and then upgraded to 80/20. Granted the top download speeds are not as high but the upload speed and reliability is far greater. Will be moving to another FTTC provider after contract expires as Sky will not allow the use of own router.

    Virgin need to sort out their customer service as a top priority as well as roll out Docsis 3.1 and scrap the traffic shaping. Only then would I consider returning to VM.

    • Avatar Phil

      virgin media traffic management isn’t that bad now on downstream but the upload is very badly hit with 65%-75% reduced speed. That’s the reason I want to join FTTC instead.

    • Avatar DanielM

      But the slowest you would ever get (from my own experience) is about 4.9Mbps which isnt too bad, its 5/6 times faster than ADSL2+ Uploads (Annex A)

    • Avatar Hypocrite State

      The overseas support can not be too bad either considering the awards Virgin have won.

    • Avatar Farqe Vermin-like Companies

      @finaldest – does it say in the contract that you have to use Sky’s router?
      If not, terminate it, sue them for damages (wasted time due to their uniterated selfish policy) and do this under the ‘Unfair terms in contracts’ statutory law.
      Obviously I’m not a lawyer, but that should be pretty watertight – and their legal fees would cost more than buying-out your contract, so you’re in a position of power if I’m correct. Why stand for their b.s.? The legal system is there to be used for the common man, too, not just abused by Murdoch and the like.

      @Hypocrite State – whose back-patting awards scheme are you referring to? Try an independent one, overseas support is generally rubbish in my experience (IT professional). Virgin are the shady lying type of company who would quote an award from some paid-shill ‘industry association’ (that no-one’s heard of), or get customers who have zero tech experience to vote for… all that can be manipulated.

      Try thinkbroadband.com’s collated statistics from those who know what they’re doing, testing connections. That data isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn sight more unbiased than the marketing crap VM throws about, so they can exploit an ignorant non-tech-savvy market.

  8. Avatar Slow Somerset

    I don’t believe the will be a mass rollout of Vectoring but only In the areas where they have to compete with Virgin. What I would like to see is Virgin branch out a bit more and give BT a bit more competition.

  9. Avatar VM Speed Doubling - how they got away with it

    Late 2011-early 2012, just as BT was about to launch their high speed Infinity package, VM promoted a supposed free “speed doubling upgrades” (Down & Up load speeds)… Remember all the Usain Bolt ads… and then we in Reigate waited… and waited and waited…

    Finally our 10Mb download doubled to 20Mb around mid 2013, nearly 18 months later and long after Mr Bolt and the VM TV ads had long disappeared, but not the pedestrian upload speed. That has remained stuck at 1Mb but with assurances from VM it would doubled as the “upgrade program continued its roll out”.

    Well, here we are, more than 2 years later and it seems VM and it’s “free” upgrade promise have “Bolted”. While only half of that upgrade promise has been delivered, our broadband bill has increased at least 17% during the same period… but I’m sure it all had the desired effect of scuppering BT’s ambitions for their Infinity package !!

    And where were the regulators during all this ? Nowhere to be seen it would seem !

  10. Avatar Dom

    The thing about these boosts, however, is that they are only superficial increases. The routing (as seen in cmd.exe via tracert) is AWFUL compared to the older packages/modems. I’m on their highest package and while I might get as much as 3x the speed I used to, to play games on this connection isn’t really possible anymore. My pings will spike regularly and I’ll have hops of as much as 800ms sometimes.

    For the majority of course, Virgin speeds are sexy for streaming video. For the minority of us that play games, its really less than desirable.

    • Avatar Farqe Vermin-like Companies

      I agree – when I was troubleshooting a client’s VM home broadband (50mbit I believe), the speed was woeful, the pingtest.net result awful, the traceroute shocking, and the only sites that worked were the ones in VM’s web cache – which then promptly failed itself.
      That’s not a 50Mbps internet connection – or any other kind of internet connection – that’s the marketing-based *illusion* of an internet connection and the very real headache for the customer of troubleshooting it @ £40 per hour.

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