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Virgin Media UK Looks to Expand Broadband Network in Scotland

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 (11:28 am) - Score 3,362
virgin media engineer by van

Cable ISP Virgin Media has today announced that they have “plans to connect more homes” to their 516Mbps capable ultrafast broadband and TV network in Scotland, provided the Scottish Government and local authorities are able to support them. Sadly they haven’t said how much further they’d go.

So far the DOCSIS based hybrid fibre coax and “full fibre” (FTTP) using provider has already extended their network to cover more than 1 million homes and businesses across Scotland and they’ve today “committed to further expansion over the coming years.”

We know from Virgin Media’s past announcements that their £3bn Project Lightning work originally aimed to reach an additional 360,000 premises in Scotland by around the end of 2020 (here). Similarly in March 2018 we were told that they had already completed around 100,000 premises of that deployment (here), which still leaves a sizeable gap to fill.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government has made a commitment, as part of its delayed Reaching 100 (R100) programme, to connect every premise in Scotland to broadband speeds in excess of 30Mbps. However this will be difficult as a lot of the country’s remaining rural communities are sparse, small and there’s often a fair bit of rugged terrain between them. As such Virgin has identified the following issues.

NOTE: Ofcom’s recent spring 2019 update noted that 93% of premises in Scotland can access 30Mbps+ speeds, but this drops to 45% for “ultrafast” speeds (defined by the regulator as 300Mbps+) and just 5% for full fibre lines.

Virgin Media’s Key Asks

· Local Authorities to ensure that all new housing developers consult more than one provider to maximise fibre rollout and provide choice for homeowners.

· Westminster and Scottish Government to make it easier for broadband providers to secure wayleave access for multi-dwelling units (MDUs).

· Scottish Government to work closely with Virgin Media to ensure that its investment and rollout complements R100.

A lot of these should be supported by the changes that have been proposed as part of the UK’s Future Telecoms Infrastructure Review (FTIR) and no doubt Scotland’s recent move to adopt a 10 year business rates holiday on new fibre deployments will also be very welcome (Virgin called for this last year). Otherwise it’s difficult to know, from the vague statements above, all of what they might be seeking.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Scottish Minister for Energy and Connectivity, said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that every household and business in Scotland has access to superfast broadband at speeds of 30 Megabits per second or better, and this is a commitment that has been backed up by a £600 million investment in the Reaching 100 percent Programme, or R100, with £579 million of this funding coming from the Scottish Government.

Investment from commercial suppliers is also critical to achieving our target which is why I am delighted to see Virgin Media extend the reach of its network. Our approach will build on our previous investment, which has seen more than 95% of premises across Scotland now able to access fibre broadband.”

Colin Brown, VM Director of Build for Scotland, said:

“As part of our ultrafast broadband expansion in Scotland, Virgin Media has invested millions of pounds to help bring better and faster connectivity to more homes and businesses. Working in partnership with the Scottish Government, we want to reach new areas in Scotland so they too can enjoy the benefits our network can bring.”

Sadly what today’s announcement doesn’t tell us is arguably the most important piece of information to know; what does “connect more homes” actually mean? Do they mean connect more than the 360,000 premises already promised or is this merely about helping to reach the existing target? We have asked their media team but so far no response has been received (in the case of a non-reply we’d assume the latter).

UPDATE 1:01pm

Virgin has responded to clarify that this is just reaffirming their commitment to Scotland by connecting more premises as part of Project Lightning and their “wider plans beyond that.”

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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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12 Responses
  1. Avatar Herve Shango

    They’ll love virgin media speeds and connectivity (but when it goes down, it is the worst experience ever, coming a virgin media loyal customer here.)

  2. Avatar Meadmodj

    Why should the Local Authority “insist” new housing developers consult many providers?. OR, Hyperoptic, OFNL etc are all currently providing different models and forming relationships with the HBF and leading companies. So if VM want to be involved there is nothing stopping them, just give them options that are more beneficial. It’s a developers choice and they are becoming more aware and savvy all the time. As for “choice” most developers only want one lot to work with and VM are a monopoly ISP.

    R100 is a bit rich. VM volunteering to do rural and ensure 100% coverage in their rollouts then?

    • Avatar CarlT

      How very strange: you’re obsessed by the idea of people having more choice about their retail provider but simultaneously object to multiple infrastructure providers being involved.

    • Avatar Meadmodj

      This comment related to NEW BUILD. There is likely only to be one and for covenant period if not ever. The developer will choose nothing to do with LA. If I was selling houses limiting broadband to VM may put people off. Better for developer to go with a network provider that has multi ISP agreements (OFNL) that include centralised TV/radio or entry level to Giga broadband ( Hrperoptic)

      I agree that new build should be gig capable but not that the developer is required to look at options if they already have agreements.

    • Avatar CarlT

      There isn’t likely to be one actually. A bunch of new builds are Openreach and VM. The main bulids excluding VM are using altnets.

      Multi-ISP agreements aren’t worth that much if the wholesale agreements are such that very few operators take then up. B4RN are an open network in theory. How many customers are you aware of using B4RN’s network via a third party ISP?

      Proscriptive covenants are likely impossible in the longer term, however they can be an issue for a while. There is no reason at all why a new build shouldn’t offer both Openreach and VM. In an ideal world these ‘covenants’ simply wouldn’t exist.

      I write as someone moving a an Openreach-only new build that will be delivered via sub-standard Openreach kitl

  3. Avatar Ogilvie Jackson

    Whatever has happened to R100 ??? Delay after Delay…We need to know who gets what and when !.
    Come on Scot Gov..chase these guys on ..we are all waiting.

  4. Avatar FibreBubble

    Virgin are highly active in anti competitive restrictive practices on newsites. Racking up deals with builders to lock out competing providers such as AAISP, IDNET and ZEN. Restricting choice to purchasers of the houses. So it is surprising to see their cheeky demands of Scots to try and cement their dodgy dealings.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Must’ve missed all those developments where Andrews and Arnold. IDNET and Zen were wanting to build infrastructure to deliver their services to end customers but were locked out by Virgin Media.

    • I think he’s confused Virgin’s closed network (no wholesale) with physical infrastructure build.

    • Avatar Mike

      Why should VM share what is theres?

      Is your house open to the general public?

  5. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    The best way to drive up standards is to enable customers to have a choice, half the country would probably still be only on dial-up internet were it not for cable broadband. So, a local Authority should indeed insist that new housing developers consult multiple providers. As the New Building (Amendment) Regulations 2016 does not mandate the provision of multiple networks where possible, developers – especially smaller ones – tend to strike a deal with just one provider.

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