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Trial Invites for 1Gbps Virgin Media Broadband in Southampton

Thursday, August 15th, 2019 (7:49 am) - Score 3,881
virgin media engineer touching fibre optic wires

Cable ISP Virgin Media UK has begun to invite selected customers in Southampton (Hampshire) to help trial their new DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade, which will boost the service’s top download speed to 1000Mbps (albeit only 50Mbps upload) on existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and full fibre FTTP lines.

The trial forms part of last month’s announcement, which saw the operator pledge to deploy the 1Gbps DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade across their entire network (currently 15 million predominantly urban UK premises) by the end of 2021 and this will start in Southampton (here). Information leaked to us suggests that Manchester and Reading are likely to be next on the list, with Basingstoke and Bracknell to follow, but this is yet to be confirmed.

The DOCSIS 3.1 standard is able to achieve this extra speed by making several big improvements, such as harnessing the power of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) – used in all sorts of networks to split a single signal into multiple frequencies (each of which can carry data) – and improved error correction (Low Density Parity Check). On top of that it also boosts the radio frequency (spectrum) allocations.

In theory all of this should happen seamlessly without an engineer visiting your property (may sometimes still occur under trial conditions, as part of testing) and participants in the Southampton trial will just be sent a new Hub 4.0 router. We recently covered everything we know about the Hub 4.0 so far (here), but we now think their final design may be more akin to the rectangular SuperHub 2AC than the square Gigabit Connect Box.

Aside from a new router, the trial invite also promises that those who take part will not see any changes to their bill (i.e. you get to play with 1Gbps speeds for free, at least for a little while). As usual the operator will also be setting up a private trial-users-only corner of their Community Forum so that customers can provide feedback on their experience.

The invite asks selected customers – typically those who are on their community forum and have previously expressed an interest in joining future trials – to respond before the end of August. The development is good news for local Virgin Media customers, albeit possibly bad news for toob’s rival plan to make Southampton their first FTTH rollout city (here).

UPDATE 16th Aug 2019

Some people in Manchester also appear to be receiving invites, which seems to confirm the earlier leak of initial locations.

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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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31 Responses
  1. Avatar Ian

    50Mbps upload….ouch. I’d love just 100/100 for my needs.

    • Avatar beany

      You will have to find an Alt net then as no body else offers 100/100.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The comment was caveated with ‘home’ FTTP. The 220 up, 1G service coming in at around £200 a month retail is hardly a residential service.

  2. Avatar Barney

    Why is the upload bandwidth so pathetic with VM?

    • It’s the same issue on Liberty’s other DOCSIS 3.1 based siblings. Upstream is not a strong point for their technology but it will go a bit faster in the future.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      It is just a reflection of how the bandwidth is allocated.

      Bear in mind there is some very old architecture in the system as it was set up push the max amount of bandwidth downstream with early CATV and the upstream was never a consideration in the design as it was simply for control signals and service commands.

      It is perfectly possible as CarlT has posted quite a few times for HFC from cab -> home to support symmetrical 1G/1G

      The limiting factor is how the satellite cabs are fed by coax from the cabs that have the direct fibre feed.

      In order to resolve this all of the cabs that are fed by the coax daisy chain would need be direct fibre fed.

    • Avatar FullFibre

      I’ll eat my hat if Virgin Media ever bother pushing Fibre deeper into the existing network.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @FullFibre

      At some point they will have to or move to push fibre further to split ecology with some areas left asymmetric and others moved to symmetric.

      You can sort of get away with the 1G down 50M up but as @Phil says below if it is anything other than a single monolithic file transfer the upstream handshakes will start to become a bit of an issue with fragmented files and multiple streams.

      Ultimately VM will be driven to change if and when OR offer better upstream which is in turn driven by what the Alt Nets offer which is generally 1:1Gb….

      So it will either happen of VM will cease to be a thing. And I am pretty sure it will have at least started to happen by 2025. As ever it will be shaped by consumer demand. If VM are bleeding customers due to upstream bandwidth you can be pretty sure they will sort it. ATM OR is limited to 50 up on both Gfast and FTTP so VM have rested their boots there.

    • Avatar beany

      “Why is the upload bandwidth so pathetic with VM?”

      What is pathetic about 50Mb upload that is no worse than BT FTTP home offerings.

    • Avatar New_Londoner

      @Beany
      Openreach supports upload speeds of 220Mbps on its 1Gbps download service.

    • Avatar CarlT

      VM push fibre deeper into the network every time they do a physical node split.

      Upload can be improved significantly without a node+0 architecture, fibre to every cabinet that currently houses an amplifier. VM don’t intend to undertake those upgrades either for right now.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The comment was caveated with ‘home’ FTTP. The 220 up, 1G service coming in at around £200 a month retail is hardly a residential service.

      Jury out on the proposed 1000/110 product as no idea of details.

    • Avatar beany

      “Openreach supports upload speeds of 220Mbps on its 1Gbps download service.”

      I have never seen any Openreach product from any ISP for HOME users anywhere near those speeds.

      If such a product does exist as Carl mentions i would not call £200 a month a residential or home product. Sounds more like a business option.

      Going down the route of boasting what “other” products you can get from providers/suppliers is idiotic, if we are going to do that in comments here, then i guess VM still have Openreach beat as they can provide businesses with 5Gbps lines.
      Of course those are not realistically priced for home users either or unlikely anyone reading here… Or short version just as irrelevant as your comparison.

  3. Avatar FullFibre

    50Mbps upload.. not a very funny joke!

    As Ian said above would happily trade some of that download for more upload bandwidth. I know it doesn’t work like that although wouldn’t that be good, you get 1Gbps and a slider to choose how it’s divided between down/upload and it can be adjusted on the fly.

    • Avatar Phil

      The upload speed could be a problem as it leaves the connection very unbalanced. If saturating the download speed of 1Gbps, it could see most or all the upload bandwidth used up in sending acknowledgements. A simple speed test will probably be okay, but in the real world with multiple users and someone saturating the download will see loads of acknowledgements going back up which might cause other upload traffic stall.

    • Avatar FullFibre

      It’s a problem before you even start to use the download. Services that can utilise 50Mbps upload are already restricted and new ones can’t be invented/thrive so what’s the point.

      Also if we have to wait untill everyone is saturating a 1Gbps download link before they improve the upload then virgin media will never be a viable option.

      Bring on the Alt nets.

    • Avatar CarlT

      The upload speed is quite adequate for acknowledgements.

      Flows generate acknowledgements, users generate flows. DOCSIS has mechanisms in it to reduce acknowledgment requirements and TCP stacks that aren’t pants can handle profound asymmetry.

  4. Avatar Virgin

    I hope all these invites in Southampton will tell virgin media sod that not interesting taking part because of really pathetic 50Mbps upload speed. Virgin Media are a bunch of tight git and useless.

  5. Avatar Matthew

    Liberty Global really have to invest in UK now it is there last big market truly left now that Vodafone sale has gone through. If they are ever wanting to sell it they can’t afford to sit on there hands they are late to DCOSIS 3.1 as it but they can’t afford to next keep pushing investment along the path to further upload speeds and pushing fibre deeper into the network.

  6. Avatar Archie

    I’m not happy about the 50 meg upload. However, it’s more likely gonna be closer to 60 so whilst it isn’t as good as their gigabit competitors, can’t argue with 60 meg considering it’s 3 x faster than BT top FTTC tier.

  7. Avatar Scott

    I believe the upstream will remain on DOCSIS 3.0 and only the downstream is using 3.1.

  8. Avatar Firebuff

    Assume this may be only to get the jump on Toob with their new 900Mbps offering for £25, probably rolling out early next year.

  9. Avatar Hercules

    Virgin Media more make somewhere in living homes when keep Superhub 3 is better than the other local property information for Virgin Media UK more jobs online now from Birmingham and Bedford.

  10. Avatar Lee

    I received the exact same invitation on Wednesday, and I am based in South Manchester (Trafford), so it looks like Manchester is definitely next on the list.

    The closing date is 23rd August so hopefully receive the Hub 4 the week after this.

    Bring on 1Gbps download 🙂

  11. Avatar Sarah

    So usual PR guff and useless to anyone outside of their special areas until what 2021? I am sure the landscape will look very different then and 1Gbps down and even 10% up is going to drown them in the future I am sure – who would want Asymmetrical then?

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