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Virgin Media Ponders Opening Up UK Network to Rival ISPs

Monday, April 8th, 2019 (9:11 am) - Score 13,773
virgin media fibre optic spades

Liberty Global, the owner of UK cable operator Virgin Media and one that has traditionally shunned the idea of providing true wholesale access to their ultrafast broadband network (a mix of hybrid fibre coax and full fibre FTTP), is now alleged by one newspaper’s sources to be reviewing the idea again.

In the past Virgin Media has been Openreach’s only real infrastructure competition in the market for faster broadband services and thus had little reason to go open access. So far their network has been built entirely via private investment in urban areas and is not yet deemed by Ofcom to have Significant Market Power (SMP), which means they don’t face the same regulation as Openreach (BT).

However, over the past couple of years this has begun to change and today various Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) providers are planning major deployments within the same markets (e.g. Cityfibre, Hyperoptic). See our Summary of UK Full Fibre Plans for more examples and details. All of this creates a new challenge to Virgin’s network and that’s on top of Openreach’s own FTTP plans.

According to The Telegraph, Liberty Global is now conducting a review that will consider, among other things, whether one way to counter this is to rent out access to ISPs like Sky Broadband. Officially the operator will not comment on the report and a spokesperson merely said, “We have the best broadband network in the UK and everyone knows it.”

The report comes shortly after Sky Broadband penned a letter to the bosses of several alternative “full fibre” ISPs, seemingly in the hope of opening talks that could result in new wholesale or other agreements to help “increase investment” and “bring ultrafast broadband to more homes” (here).

At this point we’d be surprised if Virgin Media did a u-turn on their previous approach, although equally there’s no doubt that the market as we know it is going through a gradual but significant change. As such it makes perfect sense for Virgin’s parent to be considering different approaches and as yet no decisions have been made.

One report from earlier this year also indicated that Virgin Media might have an interest in acquiring KCOM’s FTTP network in Hull, which would arguably become easier if they were able to reflect some of Ofcom’s existing wholesale regulations in that market (here). As usual, take all this with a pinch of salt until something official is announced.

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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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25 Responses
  1. Avatar Joe

    Sooner or later they will be pushed that way I agree and if they take Kcom that gets harder to avoid

  2. Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

    One ISP can give me 300/30, and soon 500/35. The others are limited to 45/6 unless I spend thousands of pounds to have them lay fibre to my door. Is that not “significant market power?”

    I get that most people don’t need that much upload; but if you do, it’s like trying to blow through a straw. Even downstream can become contested and have an increase in latency when several people are streaming, gaming, and downloading.

    A smart switch might help with prioritizing the upload, but it’s not so easy to limit what other hosts send to you and gets buffered at the ISP’s end.

    • Avatar Joe

      Err no SMP is market share/control. Not speed. 45/6 suggest you’re a ways from a cabinet causing that.

    • Avatar Mark

      From what I heard a few years ago, BT requested Ofcom order VM to give them access to their ducts to speed up their own deployment. Ofcom ignored this on the basis that the VM network was built using private funds where as the OR network was built using tax payers money. That’s why OR (who used to be part of BT) have to sell their services via wholesale and VM don’t.

  3. Avatar Joe bloggs

    (spokesperson merely said, “We have the best broadband network in the UK and everyone knows it”)

    Dont make me laugh… Virgins network is a sack of turd.. Maybe that spokesperson hasnt got the memo yet, or believes their own manure that piles out their cake hole.

    The best… hahahahahaha..

    • Avatar Moses

      [Admin note: comment removed for personal abuse to another poster]

    • Avatar CarlT

      Okay. What components are in Virgin Media network that you think are bad?

    • Avatar Tim Sneller

      Been with Virgin for over 10 years. We get 300/30, without any problems. Customer service is very good, so are installations. When we moved house in August last year, Virgin engineers arrived while the movers were still carrying furniture into the house, installed cable to two rooms, tested it, and did not leave until completely finished, which was not until 19:00.

    • Avatar Sarah

      We get 350/20 I assume that’s a FTTP product?

    • Avatar SimonR

      @Sarah – 350/20 is the FTTC offering.

    • Avatar Joe

      350/20 is a VM speed DOCSIS 3

      330/50 would be FttP.

    • Avatar ENS

      They either need to improve availability or start laying ducts and open them up. I have twin ~100mm under my drive but new build access seems to be 10mm subduction in narrow trench.

      Cannot find the reference but I recall recently reading a VM claim on 99% a availability. 3.5 days outage per year as a claim and I left them after 5 outages of 5h or more over 6 weeks, the longest 9h and most of them apparently did not exist as they “always inform customers first”. Sure, off at 10 and on at 3 you hoped to get away with it.

  4. Avatar Moses

    BT is going to lose the competition pretty badly, virginmedia (liberty) are so smart here, they should open up their infrastructure to other ISPs

    • Avatar Joe

      Other way around: ORs increasing fttp deployment poses a threat to VM.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      Hence why VM are being forced to move on DOCSIS3.1 so they don’t get left behind on speed.

      It will be interesting to see how interested any of the major players are in Co existing on VM’s platform.

      I suspect if VM had done this some time ago then there would be an inertial lock in. But IRL it is easier to coexist over pure fibre than over coax.

  5. Avatar michael van velzen

    we got sky 80 mbps before the router after the router 65mbps one meter away from router 45 by the telly 4 metre awayfrom router 35 and thats at quit time. peak time is 20 mbps .cant wait till virgin arives

    • Avatar Joe

      if your speed drops form the socket that badly thats an internal house issue not sky

    • Avatar Lee

      This is a wireless issue, try splitting your 2.4ghz and 5ghz wireless bands. Virgin routers have exactly the same kind of wireless issues

    • Avatar Badem

      Agree with Lee, Wi-fi is such a finicky thing and dependent on so many factors outside the ISPs control.

      Ensure router is out in the open and away from any ‘blockers’ (surprised how many people shove them behind TVs)

      Split the SSIDs but be aware of broadcast ranges etc

      Install a Wifi Scanner App on your mobile and check how many other broadcasters are using the same channel as your routers wifi- Auto is best option but excessive broadcasters are going to push the broadcast down to 20mhz for fair sharing and then your speed drops 50% automatically

      Speed over wifi is only an issue if its buffering when streaming etc, most devices done need more than 20Mbps to stream Netflix in HD….

  6. Avatar CarlT

    This really wouldn’t be difficult. The only really annoying part would be the billing and provisioning systems.

    Cable companies in Europe are, generally, having regulators looking more closely at them and wanting them to open up their passive infrastructure. If they can get in there with bitstream products first they might alleviate the need for that,

    PS TalkTalk / Sky / whomever are probably going to want some form of unbundling: no chance. Absolutely impractical. The best they can hope for is VULA.

  7. Avatar Fish Head

    Fantastic! Others will soon be able to enjoy the frequent micro-disconnects that Virgin offers.

  8. Avatar Net work

    Yes, let’s see virgin open up their network, after all, it’s the best, and everyone knows it. Lol….really? Just imagine the carnage, typical VM response.
    On a side note, has anyone heard the rumour that openreach will build and maintain any new voda phone networks? Personally I think virgin have been winging it for years, everywhere I go where they have network it looks horrific, at least OR lock their cab doors with something more substantial than the locks you have on your downstairs toilet.
    No affiliation to either company, lived at 3 different addresses around the country, one side can get virgin, the other can’t, it’ll never change. As you can probably tell, I’m not a fan of Mr Branson, and will never use their services again, cancelled my contract the day they sued the NHS.
    Rant over.
    Morning 🙂

  9. Avatar Sean

    Oh I think Virgin Media work making every where live stream before too expensive, need Vodafone Cable TV Jobs huh?? Please hahaha come on now how feel.

  10. Avatar sam

    Bet it better than the network of openreach cowboys

  11. Avatar Net work

    Cheers max.

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