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Virgin Media UK Mocks Cheeky BT Bristol FTTP Broadband Ad

Wednesday, Jan 29th, 2020 (12:47 pm) - Score 12,782

Cable ISP Virgin Media UK has criticised BT’s “dubious, unsubstantiated advertising” of their “full fibre” broadband products in the city of Bristol, which via several large billboard promotions warned locals not to “settle for Virgin” and to instead get “more reliable speeds than Virgin M200 and M350” from their FTTP.

In response Virgin Media hired a van (or several vans) and drove them around the city (part of their #BornFaststunt“), often leaving them parked in front of BT’s billboards. Each brightly lit van has “B*** ***T” brandished in big bold print on the side, which could also be seen as masked swearing for a particularly common phrase. Beneath that it said, “Our fastest average speed in Bristol is 516Mbps. That’s loads faster than BT. Enough said.

Separately the cable operator said that their network covers almost 300,000 premises in the city and that they will be able to offer 1Gbps speeds by the end of 2021 as part of their DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade. Virgin said their aim is to ensure that “residents get the message in a fun and humorous way – all in the spirit of clarity and competition. The stunt is also being supported by content on Virgin Media’s social media channels with the potential to bring the billboards to other areas in future.

Virgin Media added that they’ve also “formally challenged” BT’s advert (we assume this means they’ve complained to the Advertising Standards Authority) and has contacted the provider directly, although it won’t come as too much of a surprise to find that BT has “not yet responded with evidence to justify the claims made on their billboard” (they’re unlikely to respond to Virgin directly).

Cilesta Van Doorn, Brand and Marketing Director at Virgin Media, said:

“BT’s broadband bunkum just couldn’t go unchecked. Residents of Bristol won’t be fooled by BT’s babble and we look forward to welcoming anyone who wants to experience life in the fast lane with our superior ultrafast speeds. With a reliable future-proof network that is bringing gigabit speeds to Bristol and more of the UK, Virgin Media is, as always, leading the charge – catch us if you can.”

So what’s the truth in all this? Firstly, there’s no denying that Virgin Media currently offers the fastest download speeds (BT’s top tier offers average downloads of 300Mbps), although their 516Mbps average speed package only advertises 36Mbps for upload speed, while BT’s rival 300Mbps tier offers 49Mbps for upload.

BT’s network provider Openreach, much like Virgin, also has a 1Gbps consumer tier on the way (due to launch on 23rd March 2020) and that will offer uploads of 115Mbps while Virgin’s 1Gbps package comes with the same upload as on their 516Mbps plan. On the other hand we don’t yet know which Openreach based ISPs will offer the new 1Gbps tier and it may be more expensive than Virgin’s.

Coverage is another problem. At present Openreach’s FTTP network only covers about a third of premises in Bristol and rising, while Virgin Media’s network can already reach the vast majority of the city. As for reliability, gauging that tends to be more complicated and we’re not sure if either promotion has provided enough hard evidence to support a “more reliable” claim.. yet.

Overall BT would probably do well to ensure that their FTTP coverage is at least close to Virgin Media’s current level before trashing their rival. On top of that both sides really should consider upload performance in such promotions too.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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42 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Michael V says:

    Funny. Love a bit of ISP banter!

  2. Avatar photo Luke says:

    Or it’s just means Born fasT instead of a swear word.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      The joy of marketing.

  3. Avatar photo Jake4 says:

    Virgin also spent a ton of money advertising on twitter. https://i.imgur.com/kqQdnIo.jpg
    481k ad views.

    1. Avatar photo joe says:

      @Pic Um better if they used fish surely!

  4. Avatar photo .. says:

    RIP to the image of the Virgin truck next to the BT billboard. GBNF.

    1. Avatar photo ... says:

      Nevermind, turns our Adblocker blocked it for some reason. Doesn’t on any other though, off.

    2. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Possibly because a lot of adblockers are overzealous, so if you put the word “advert” into a normal image name then they just block it regardless of the content.

    3. Avatar photo Laurence Parry says:

      I wouldn’t call that overzealous – it *is* an ad, after all…

    4. Avatar photo Laurence Parry says:

      In fact, it’s two ads!

    5. Avatar photo ... says:

      Yes it’s an ad but I wouldn’t be on ISPR if I didn’t mind them, I should have had it whitelisted anyway since it doesn’t harrass me with them like most other websites. *ahem, PCGamer*

  5. Avatar photo NGA for all says:

    Blon Gurt .. some Bristolian might comment whether Virgin are offering something to smoke!

    1. Avatar photo alison says:

      You have no idea how stupid you sound. And yes I am a Bristolian. Never smoked in my life – probably unlike you

  6. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

    As I posted on an earlier thread this is the differentiation campaign that I expect – albeit in a few months time!

    Here goes with pressure on VM as I suspect it would be possible to prove that FTTP is, on average, more reliable that HFC.

    1. Avatar photo Spoffle says:

      In my anecdotal experience, it absolutely is. I haven’t had a single outage since I had my Openreach FTTP connection installed 4-5 months ago.

      Speeds are stable, my ping is substantially better than it ever was on Virgin with their shitty routing and Puma 6 based hub.

      I’ll only go back to Virgin when they offer true FTTP that doesn’t use a puma based modem.

    2. Avatar photo Colin says:


      Meh, I’ve been on FTTC with Plusnet for years now, and I don’t recall a meaningful outage during the entire time. Speeds are advertised at 80/20, and I always get very nearly that, round about 75/16. And all for the princely sum of £26/m.

      Now I’m finally enabled for FTTP, I was actually shocked to see the high prices of even the low-speed FTTP offerings. Case in point, BT offer a paltry 36/9 for £27/m, and require a 2 year contract. IMO, offcom shouldn’t even allow them to offer speeds that low on FTTP. I really hope there will be some more competition soon to drive down prices.

    3. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:


      Ofcom/Government have to be mindful (and we should ensure they are) that there has to be an affordable socially inclusive entry level product. Some customers simply need no more and there are those on restricted incomes. It’s no good having Giga broadband if people are excluded by high costs. The small price margin between products (all technologies) means those with a higher need or income can buy the product that meets or exceeds their expectation.

      The cost difference between copper and FTTP probably reflects investment, initial connection and an ONT. ADSL by now should be being written off and become cheaper but that appears not to be the case. ADSL is being commercially removed where FTTC service exists by pricing the same or via FTTC offers or just by inhibiting products. Altnets would not want the FTTC prices to fall as they want to promote FTTP, Ofcom want FTTP investment to be promoted and OR want/need compulsory changeover. The main players have national pricing and I see alignment of speeds and pricing going forward regardless of the underlying technology.

      My view is that the range of services so everyone can access an affordable product and we are not all forced up to a Ultra/Giga one.

  7. Avatar photo mike says:

    “Our fastest average speed in Bristol is 516Mbps*”

    * But we’ll force you to have two TiVo boxes and a SIM card to be able to get it

  8. Avatar photo chris conder says:

    haha, the ASA won’t do anything to BT. Toothless. Good for virgin. The whole country would still be on dial up if they hadn’t started their original coax network. A lot of which is now fibred and just waiting for a change of cpe once folk realise they need more.

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      Most of the VM network is HFC coax……

      The only full fiber bits are the Project Litening areas…..

      Don’t get me wrong full fiber is way superior on a lot of levels to anything involving copper

    2. Avatar photo TheFacts says:

      As you know, back then the government would not allow BT to install fibre to homes with broadcast to give the cable companies as chance to cover the UK. Which they failed to do.

    3. Avatar photo John says:

      That’s not correct at all Chris.

      Coax areas remain coax.

      Most of Virgins expansion via Project Lightning is indeed FTTP.
      The Fibre is converted to coax as it enters the property.

      Customers in older HFC (coax) areas and those in newer FTTP areas both use the same Virgin Hub 3.0, all connected to the hub via coax.

      Those in older coax areas certainly aren’t…

      “now fibred and just waiting for a change of cpe once folk realise they need more”

      They don’t need a change of CPE (or to be “fibred”.
      They only need to order a faster package.

      The same speeds are available for both HFC and FTTP customers, on the same CPE.

    4. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Almost all the VM network is hybrid and always has been.

      Some areas that were all coaxial were made hybrid.

      No areas that were hybrid are all fibre.

      BT probably comprise the majority of all FTTP in the UK.

    5. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

      I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that BT/OR are the highest level of premises passed.

      Although I don’t think we want to restart the passed/connected debate…..

  9. Avatar photo Brett says:

    Finally, calling these ISPs out on real points. Upload speed, coverage and reliability!

  10. Avatar photo AndyC says:

    Maby the best way to fight virgin is to brag about upload speed, just as important as download speed in this age of online backups, ect

    1. Avatar photo alison says:

      Yes – might get VM off their A**** then and actually increase them to well above BT knowing BT can’t do that yet

  11. Avatar photo Mark says:

    I always wonder how virgin will be able to compete when openreach, cityfibre, hyperopic and I’ll the other altnets roll out full fibre symmetrical gigabit.

    I will always prefer and take a full-fibre service over Hybrid Coax once it’s available to me.

  12. Avatar photo Hmm says:

    Funny the comments on Twitter VM advert are all disgruntled VM customers from around the Bristol area. Kind of backfired in that sense, they know the OR FTTP network is more superior.

  13. Avatar photo Shaun Forsyth says:

    Can they stop wasting money on this rubbish, and just get the people still stuck on adsl in major UK cities onto basic FTTC

    1. Avatar photo Meadmod says:

      If people are in a city and on low performing ADSL why aren’t they on 4G which is actually cheaper/better. They can move back to fixed when FTTP finally arrives. There will be a small percentage where there is still 4G reception issues, but for cities, that has to be a very small percentage who do not have a reasonable outdoor signal for some reason.

      I have sympathy with those that do not have a choice and ADSL is it but not for those that have options.

    2. Avatar photo Mike says:

      If you’re still on ADSL in the middle of city in 2020, you need your head examined.

    3. Avatar photo alison says:

      Not really Mike – if you only use sites and e-mail you don’t need more.. Check yourself boy.

    4. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      Well when BT helpfully disconnected two FTTC lines from one of our offices we got to try how good it was running an office of 10+ over 4G.

      Not very was the answer.

      We can see the 4G mast out of the window which is on top of the telephone exchange. And we are about 150m from it. Throughput measures OK on Speedtest but the overall real bandwidth was not fantastic.

      So I have a lot of sympathy for those stuck on ADSL on EO lines as they are not a solution to much these days. They may be OK for a bit of light email, online shopping etc but no use to a school age family.

  14. Avatar photo alison says:

    I get 556/45 all day long on Virgin – Happy with that even if BT were here, which they are not..

  15. Avatar photo SlipperyMipple says:

    Hmm and interesting read the comments are….

    However opinion in my area is… Virgin didn’t offer us above 200mbps until just this month, meanwhile BT has completed FTTP (Fibre First area) to around 2/3 of the exchange area and has it live, the word of mouth around the area is certainly showing the favouring of BT’s service with Hub 6’s appearing everywhere Virgin hubs used to broadcast.

    Alas I’m still stuck with Virgin’s 100Mb for a while longer, though these days I tend to use it for Netflix as everything else I do is out of house and I find using EE’s 4G network a hell of a lot more reliable and faster…. (Hmm. suppose thats BT too)

    200-300mbps recorded on 4G FYI! though around 20-40mbps at home due to 1 bar of signal, still better for gaming and streaming than Virgin somehow.

    I read a news story recently that said Virgin was now pushing the DOCSIS 3.1 kit into some 3.0 area’s due to the network struggling with the introduction of 500Mbps service, and its only being taken by a small base of customers currently due to ridiculous bundling.

    ^^^ So IMO, Virgin can’t say a fat lot about speed/reliability/coverage….. what can be sold and what can be provided are two different things.

    Also why the hell is there broadband now so much, I’m paying £51.50 before discount for 100Mbps and weekend calls, I get a discount of £12 and that is still expensive compared to new customers and alternative providers.

    I don’t mind cost but getting nothing for it really, even the street furniture is decayed and close to collapse.

  16. Avatar photo M Boon says:

    Hi slippery Mipple
    I have vm 100mbps and weekend calls paying £26 pm
    You need to phone vm or shop around seems expensive

    1. Avatar photo SlipperyMipple says:

      I did phone Virgin and thats the best they offered.

  17. Avatar photo alison says:

    In the last week or so I have started to get about 600 down and 47 up in speed tests and downloads hitting 70MB/sec and 4.6MB/sec up

    Is this something odd or just the router flexing?

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