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Virgin Media UK Extends 1Gbps Broadband Upgrade to Reading

Wednesday, November 27th, 2019 (12:01 am) - Score 4,625

As predicted cable and full fibre ISP Virgin Media has today announced that the third urban UK location to benefit from their new 1Gbps broadband speed upgrade is the town of Reading and surrounding areas, which follows close behind Greater Manchester and Southampton. The service formally goes live tomorrow.

At present nearly all of Virgin Media’s customers can already access ultrafast speeds of 500Mbps via their existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network using EuroDOCSIS 3.0 technology, while the boost to 1104Mbps (52Mbps upload) via their new Gig1Fibre package is all thanks to the DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade.

Under the plan VM expects to cover 1 million UK premises with this by the end of 2019 and then the rest of their network (currently 15 million premises) by 2021. Today’s news means that nearly a quarter of a million homes across Berkshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire will, at this moment in time, be able to benefit from gigabit broadband and rising.

Reading is a big area and a major hub site for the cable operator (not unlike Aztec West and Newton Abbot in the future), which actually means that this upgrade covers a significantly larger area than you might think. The parts of Reading and surrounding areas set to benefit include the Calcot, Caversham, Earley, Tilehurst and Woodley areas of the city, and surrounding villages including Pangbourne, Twyford, Shinfield and Theale.

Other nearby towns including Newbury, Bracknell, Wokingham, Thatcham, Basingstoke and High Wycombe will also benefit from today’s announcement.

Jeff Dodds, COO of Virgin Media, said:

“This is a next-generation broadband boost for the residents of Reading.

These hyperfast speeds are 25 times faster than Reading’s average broadband connection, meaning that households can do everything they want to do online, at the same time, without delay and are well set for whatever comes next.

This is just one of many investments we’re making in Reading – with our brand new state-of-the-art office set to open next month. We’re committed to making the UK faster and will continue to roll out next-generation Gig1 broadband across our entire network over the next 24 months – a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else.”

Customers who take out the new Gig1Fibre package will be sent a new HUB 4.0 (TG3492LG-VMB / Gigabit Connect Box) router and you can see the specification for that at the bottom of this article from September 2019. You cannot get faster than their 500Mbps tier without the HUB 4.0 because the existing Hub 3.0 doesn’t support DOCSIS 3.1.

Prices start from £62 per month for their standalone broadband service or £67 when bundled with phone (18 month term), with a guaranteed price freeze for at least 24 months. The rollout pace for their DOCSIS 3.1 upgrade is now likely to become increasingly rapid as we progress into and through 2020 toward completion.

Ellie Emberson, Reading Borough Council, said:

“Reading is already a major economic player in both the region and in the UK. The introduction of this level of broadband connectivity and speed is yet another major vote of confidence in Reading.

Developing technology is offering individuals, businesses and organisations new ways of working and new job and career opportunities. Outside of the workplace, there is the potential to make a real difference to lives, through things like access to care or information, which will lead to major benefits for people across the town.”

On top of this the cable operator will next month open a brand new headquarters in the city’s Green Park Business Park which will be home to approximately 1,300 staff. Virgin Media now intends to announce which further cities are set to benefit from its Gig1 service in 2020.

The operator, through its Project Lightning programme, is also continuing to expand their network to more homes and businesses across the UK. Almost 2 million extra UK premises have been passed since the project began in 2016 (the original goal was 4 million with half on FTTP) and the rollout is on-going, seemingly for the next few years.

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50 Responses
  1. Avatar JamieG

    Yet another town gets 1GB yet most of the network can’t get standalone 500mps. Virgin has its priorities all wrong with the rest of us stuck on 350mps.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      It is commercial.

      VM needs to keep ahead of the Alt Nets and OR’s FTTP.

      To do that they need 1G and that means low hanging fruit areas first.

      Much as everyone on here would love 1G/1G everywhere now the reality is that it takes time planning and money to delivery it and also those all important human being who have to dig holes, fuse fibres and connect stuff up – and there is a limited supply with the right skills.

    • Avatar Matt

      Sounds about right just annoying 🙁

    • Avatar Rich

      @A_Builder that explains why they don’t do 1G everywhere instantly, but why not let those of us on 350 upgrade to 500?!

    • Avatar A_Builder

      @Rich

      Probably to do with infrastructure and backhaul.

      In a past life I was involved in an IT upgrade. Tested on a bunch of units. Pushed out and a small but reasonable percentage of units were borked. This was a nightmare to resolve.

      Similarly you would upgrade a network in phases as it only takes one unit somewhere to have a subtly different hardware configuration refuse to re-flash etc and the whole things turns to a mess.

      So, as a generality, when these things are done there will be physical guys on the ground with a van full of spares ready to intervene. And they need to be local so the intervention can be before anyone really cottons on.

    • Avatar Rich

      500m is available everywhere, including where I am. I can have it today, but only if I buy their crappy TV service, an overpriced sim, and an anytime landline calls bundle at the same time.

      It’s not about the inability of the network to support it – the product is on sale. It’s about anti-consumer bundling.

      The 1G package isn’t bundle only where it is available, so the decision seems even more strange.

      What is idiotic is delivering a package that is rate capped at 1.1gbit on a router with only 1G nics. No SFP+, no 2.5 or 5 or 10G, etc.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Being stuck on 350 isn’t too much of a torment.

      VM have decided not to make 500 available anywhere outside of bundles. That’s a commercial decision on the 500 and nothing to do with the Gig1.

      Selling >1 Gb on devices that have GigE ports only isn’t that uncommon – see Bell Canada for instance.

    • Avatar Ryan

      what’s wrong with being “stuck” on 350mbit ? Most of the time I can only get 100% of that 350mbit if im using a torrent or using steam, I rarely get 43MB/sec from any webserver. What can you do with 500mbit you can’t do with 350? What would be more useful would be more upload speed. According to the specification DOCSIS 3.1 can do 1-2 gbit upload, and even 3.0 can do 200mbit upload … so why are they offering such poor upload speeds ?

    • Avatar CarlT

      What can be done under the specification and what an individual operator’s network can do are quite different things, Ryan. The specification numbers are also bandwidth shared between all devices in an area, not what a single operator can realistically provision to a single customer.

    • Avatar beany

      “500m is available everywhere, including where I am. I can have it today, but only if I buy their crappy TV service, an overpriced sim, and an anytime landline calls bundle at the same time.”

      You can buy 500Mb for £62 per month using their business site without the need to buy anything other than just broadband.

    • Avatar SadSurfer

      I would be glad to be “stuck” on 350 mbps. In the last 4 years I’ve been asking ISPs and registering my interest for a connection faster than 80/20 as that is all I can get in my building. Whereas across the street VM is available, they can’t be bothered to extend their network by 50-100 metres to cover the “new” builds. By new I mean 15-17 years. Obviously there are people on worse connections, but reading that people are complaining about being stuck on 350 mbps makes me annoyed at the least. The only option is waiting for 5G home broadband coverage (I am just on the edge of EE and Vodafone 5G coverage – limited coverage).

  2. Avatar James

    Being told by virgin it’s not in bracknell yet on twitter

  3. Avatar Sam

    Rather than giving cities this infrastructure why not give villages more love. Some of my village struggle to get 10 meg..

    • Avatar CarlT

      This isn’t new infrastructure in the streets. The whole point of this upgrade is that it’s pretty inexpensive.

      It’s going to cost Virgin Media perhaps £20-25 per premises passed to deploy DOCSIS 3.1 which allows them to deliver a gigabit. Their new builds, which I would point out are almost entirely in urban areas, are coming in at £660 per premises passed.

      Slight difference in cost for them, and it is their money to spend as they see fit.

    • Avatar beany

      Ask whoever it is who is only providing that 10Mb to upgrade you instead then.

  4. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    “At present nearly all of Virgin Media’s customers can already access ultrafast speeds of 500Mbps”
    My understanding is that 200Mbps is available to everyone but not all can get 350Mbps let alone 500Mbps. There is some investment needed to level up to 500Mbps so that Gig1 can be deployed.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Gig1 availability is not reliant on availability of 500 Mb.

    • Avatar beany

      350Mb and 500Mb is available anywhere Virgin Medias Network is. Their “small” business options now only have 350Mb and 500Mb listed as options.
      https://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/connectivity/internet-access/business-broadband/

      Nothing lower so those speeds as far as i can tell are available anywhere their network is.

    • Avatar beany

      PS… 350Mb and 500Mb is Docsis 3.0
      1Gig is delivered over Docsis 3.1 and NO that is not available everywhere but as and when an area is upgraded to Docsis 3.1 capability…… Err much like the news item mentions :-$

      SIGH…
      Another VM story same regular bunch/individual that cant read it.

    • Avatar CarlT

      350 and 500 over business services are not quite available anywhere VM’s network is. From beany’s own link:

      Network Coverage
      Voom Fibre & Voom 500 has 97% UK network coverage.

      There’s the odd area where 500 is not available, even if the top bundle is taken, due to capacity so customers will get 350. In this case downstream capacity is the issue and Gig1 shouldn’t be an issue.

      Upstream capacity issues will cause Gig1 to be removed from sale, though, regardless of DOCSIS 3.1 availability.

    • Avatar beany

      I highly doubt the serial VM contaminators on here (sorry i mean commentators) are in the 3% that can not get either 350Mb or 500Mb.

      Of course there is a post code check at…
      https://www.virginmediabusiness.co.uk/connectivity/internet-access/business-broadband/#checker

      Which they can spend most of their coming days trying to find a postcode in that 3% and pretend they live there and respond back ; )

  5. Avatar A_Builder

    @Beany

    But we all seem agree that:-

    – Gig1 does need some level of upgrade to physical infrastructure in some places

    – backhaul capacity is an issue in a *few* places & might be a volume_saleable issue for Gig1

    This is not simple push of a button stuff so takes time, effort, though & care to roll out.

    Anyway the good news is that VM are doing it and it will benefit some people who really need it greatly. And other it will make zero difference as they simply don’t need bandwidth over 350 down. And still others will gnash their teeth as they need more upstream than VM can offer and pray for DOCSIS4 and the downstream will make zero difference to them.

    • Avatar beany

      I have yet to see a convincing argument from any of the VM illuminati that need 35Mb upload, let alone more than that.

      The latest reason someone wanted more was for media streaming (not even a netflix or youtube 4k stream goes at a constant 35Mb, Netflix UltraHD only needs 25Mb tops) so god knows why they need it to stream their pirate crap.

      Previous also debunked nonsense includes twitch, when that will do 1080p with just 6Mb, 1440p at around 10Mb and 4K only needs 20-25Mb.

      Basically the claims of “MWWWWR UPLOAD” which comes from their/its lips is nonsense.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Given DoCSIS 4 isn’t in production anywhere and the hardware isn’t there either client or operator side I think patience would be a better move than prayer.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      I did have tongue firmly wedged in my cheek on the D4 comment……

      Realistically it is the business users who *might* well need more upstream say creatives who do video editing at home or fully interactive 3D CAD modelling (BIM) or IT support or you have an office of 10 stations and a couple of NAS and you want snapshots and incrementals easy to see how that clogs 35Mbs.

      So I can see a (small) user group who do genuinely need more upstream.

      Before we managed to get fibre to most of our locations we spent a frustrating amount of time figuring out how to manage with lesser amounts of upstream. If you have 5-10 people in a stack of cabins using 3D data and connected to various DB’s.

      I suppose my real point is that it always felt like time that could have been better spent on more productive things. Rather than bandwidth management strategies.

    • Avatar CarlT

      QoS still very much a thing in enterprise kit and I imagine will remain so for the foreseeable. Always going to need some management of bandwidth: if you aren’t consuming it all, ever, in small bursts you are paying for more than you need.

      On the flip side if you’re a residential user who feels that you must be using 100% of your capacity all the time regardless of how fast your connection is else you’re wasting it you have problems. I’m aware of a couple of people like that.

    • Avatar A_Builder

      “QoS still very much a thing in enterprise kit”

      Agreed but it is frustrating when QoS takes on a life of its own.

      QoS helps but when the total bandwidth is less than the business critical demand then……

      Now most places have at least 330/330 this is, in those locations a distant memory.

      We would always prioritise SIP traffic and a few other things anyway …. throttle DropBox and the Backups back in working hours. But it is cheaper for us to get a fatter pipe than to spend man hours messing around so at the end of the day it is commercial.

    • Avatar CarlT

      I guess that depends on how smart your network is.

  6. Avatar Roger_Gooner

    The reason why I upgraded to 350Mbps is not that I needed that downloaded speed (hugely faster than my requirements) but it was the only way to get 35Mbps upload which I want as I do some backups to the Acronis cloud. Previously I had 12Mbbps upload and it would take days to do a full backup, now it’s less slow.

    I regard cloud backups as akin to disaster recovery in case my local backups become unavailable for whatever reason.

    • Avatar Go away

      What prior VM product did you have that only gave you 12Mb upload?

      It certainly was not 200Mb product which you moan about only being available as a max to ALL earlier on here as that is 20Mb upload.

      If you were on 100Mb you could by your own logic of upgraded to 200Mb regardless of 350Mb and 500Mb availability which you chastised earlier and had 20Mb upload.

      As to the latest dream and….
      “I do some backups to the Acronis cloud. Previously I had 12Mbbps upload and it would take days to do a full backup”

      A). Acronis Cloud costs money and is a business service
      B). To pay for the amount of storage with Acronis would also cost a pretty penny, for what would of been taking you “DAYS” to upload would equated to hundreds of Gigabytes.

      Or for the interested reading @12Mb you could upload 125 GigaBytes in a single 24 hour period. Quite what you were doing which required you to upload 250 Gigabytes over 2 “DAYS” or 375 Gigabytes over 3 “DAYS” or 500 Gigabytes over 4 days etc,etc,etc… Is an absolute mystery.

      Acronis Cloud last time i checked started at 42 euros for a single workstation licence and another 229 euros per year for 250GB (or 2 of your “DAYS” uploading) of storage.

      So yeah, im guessing new name and new fantasy after another evening of reading news/reviews on the web for you eh?

    • Avatar CarlT

      When the 350 was released the 200 Mb product had a 12 Mb upload.

    • Avatar beany

      I thought it was 200/300Mb (300Mb was from memory a very short package or trial) which had the 12Mb upload when 200Mb was introduced and the 152Mb packages got boosted to it…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/09/virgin-media-boosts-top-uk-vivid-cable-broadband-speeds-to-200mbps.html

      350Mb always AFAIK had 20Mb upload as minimum even when introduced….
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2018/03/virgin-media-uk-make-new-350mbps-broadband-package-available.html

      Which later got boosted to match the 500Mb product and its 35Mb upload…
      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/04/virgin-media-boost-some-upload-speeds-ahead-of-500mbps-launch.html

      Either way all old news and speeds or packages he is mentioning are getting getting on for what was around a year (or longer) ago. Probably around the same time (if its who is normally on these items) when they got booted off/could not get the discounts they wanted and their whole VM ISPreview tantrums begun.

  7. Avatar Spurple

    Why is price fix only guaranteed for 2 years?

    Nothing more frustrating that the price rise letters, and threatening to cancel in response is a hassle best avoided. Price your contracts correctly, do initial term discounts if you must, and honour the price for the length of the contract.

    • Avatar Go away

      Could be worse could be BT and one of their now 24 month terms where you will get stung with your first price rise come feb/march next year due to RPI.

  8. Avatar Matt

    Love the comments – very informative. I do have a stupid question. From what you guys are saying upgrading from 3.0 to 3.1 is relatively simple and cheap (£20-25/premise). Now, I may be a bit thick, but why are they only doing 1m premises in 2019, when OR can do 1.5m/year (assuming they can keep up the 30,000/week they say they are achieving) of their more expensive/timeconsuming FTTP rollouts?

    • Avatar Spurple

      Labour supply and the laws of physics, I think.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Availability of the DoCSIS 3.1 modems and their cost relative to the 3.0 kit.

      Easy 🙂

    • Avatar Matt

      Spurple / CarIT Thanks 🙂

    • Avatar Go away

      Openreach have NOT been doing 30,000 premises per week, every week.

      It has ramped up to NEAR that figure and is on target of 30,000 by per week AVERAGE by end of the year. Currently its around 23,000 per week AVERAGE.
      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/10/bt-fttp-and-g-fast-broadband-cover-tops-4-2-million-uk-premises.html
      (see last paragraph).

      It should be noted 20,000+ per week is an AVERAGE not a CONSTANT. Sometimes they will do less sometimes more.

      At a rate of the AVERAGE last calculated of 23,000 per week that works out to 1.19 Million for a year, which ironically is not too dissimilar to VM and as the story states
      “VM expects to cover 1 million UK premises with this by the end of 2019 and then the rest of their network (currently 15 million premises) by 2021.”

      The 15 Million target by 2021 would also assume their rollout just like Openreaches is increasing in pace.

      When all said and done they are probably both deploying at very similar rates, as the numbers we do have for what is currently done for the week/month/year look very similar when you average them all out over those periods.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Bit lost here. Are we seriously comparing VM’s 3.1 upgrade to Openreach’s FTTP overbuild?

      VM’s Lightning rollout is, as you’d expect given it’s almost entirely new construction, quite a bit slower than the Openreach FTTP *overbuild*.

      Most recent quarter there are results for VM passed about 130,000 premises.

      In turn, the Openreach FTTP overbuild is considerably slower than VM’s DoCSIS upgrade, as you would expect given it’s an upgrade in hubsites, using networks already ready for it.

      If Openreach desired it they could release XGPON pretty rapidly too but either way there is no way to compare anything Openreach and VM are doing as far as FTTP and DoCSIS upgrades or builds go fairly.

      VM activating 3.1 in some areas is barely more difficult than Openreach installing new NGA OLTs / headends with their being connected to nothing other than power and ODFs.

    • Avatar Go away

      I am not sure of the point either. Or the attempt to compare figures. Figures are not going to be massively different (by that i mean one provider doing double the amount of the other per week etc) regardless of how easy or difficult the work is.

      If you have 15 million homes, ducts, cables, bits of equipment big or small (whatever it may be) that you need to hook up the biggest issue in how quick you can do it i would had thought is how many staff you have to do the actual work rather than the work itself.

      One man with one thousand wires to deal with all on his own is overwhelmed.
      One man with one thousand mates helping with those one thousand wires and its an early lunch.

    • Avatar CarlT

      True, though staffing is not an issue here. All about cost and availability of the new hub.

      The majority of VM’s network is ready for the upgrade as far as the field goes. Relatively minimal work within hubsites.

      VM’s national network upgrade, bringing all the HFC to the same standard, isn’t going to be complete for a while yet. A big selling point of 3.1 is how easy it is to deploy on existing networks.

      DoCSIS 4… really not. If VM do that it’s a big engineering task and manpower will most definitely be an issue, much as it was when they were deploying 10:1 upstream ratio in 2010-ish. That required partial rebuild of a number of local networks.

  9. Avatar Darren

    still can’t get it here in Manchester

  10. Avatar Toby

    Umm, this article says it includes Pangbourne yet this area is not currently serviced by VM at all.

    Are they saying the network is to be extended into new areas such as this, not merely existing infrastructure upgraded to provide 1gb?

    Confused.

    • Avatar CarlT

      Zero plans I can see to cable Pangbourne. Seems to be mid-way through a Gigaclear deployment right now.

      This upgrade is nothing to do with new network build.

    • Avatar Toby

      As suspected, in which case why does this VM announcement specifically mention Pangbourne?

      The Gigaclear rollout there is a joke and making no progress at all for years now.

    • Avatar CarlT

      There are roadworks from Gigaclear over the next couple of weeks there.

    • Avatar The Facts

      Just the one GC item:

      Excavate 26m in cw and 2m in footway to install pot o/s 3 Pangbourne Holl

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