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Virgin Media UK Trial Claims 400Gbps Speeds via a Single Fibre

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021 (9:38 am) - Score 11,856
fibre optic cable and ports image

A new trial conducted by broadband ISP Virgin Media UK (Liberty Global) has harnessed a prototype of Infinera XR Optics technology in its existing network, which they claim could potentially deliver multi-gigabit speeds to customers by boosting symmetric transfer rates up to 400Gbps in a single fibre.

At present the best consumer speeds that customers can expect on Virgin Media’s EuroDOCSIS 3.0 based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network is over 600Mbps, although 1Gbps+ speeds are possible in areas that have been upgraded to their latest DOCSIS 3.1 platform (due to cover their entire network by the end of 2021).

However, back in 2019 the operator did achieve end-user speeds of 8Gbps+ (8465Mbps) in the large Cambridgeshire village of Papworth (here), which made use of point-to-point style Ethernet Passive Optical Network (EPON) technology via FTTP. But last year’s 2.2Gbps (214Mbps upload) trial in the Berkshire (England) market town of Thatcham is probably more reflective of their next consumer speed boost (here).

By comparison the latest trial, which took place in Reading (Berkshire), seems to be more about improving data capacity to fuel Virgin Media’s future Passive Optical Network (PON), rather than delivering speeds of 400Gbps (Gigabits per second) directly to individual end-users – not even the future DOCSIS 4.0 standard supports that.

Crucially they also say that the new equipment upgrade (i.e. the optical transceivers at the end of a fibre) “could deliver … 400Gbps symmetrical services,” which is not quite the same thing as saying the trial actually delivered 400Gbps. As such we’ve gone back to Virgin Media in the hope of clarifying what transfer rate was actually achieved during the trial.

NOTE: Optical transceivers control where the information is sent and at what speed, thus determining how fast data can be sent from one point to another.

In the trial, the traditional network transceivers were replaced with Infinera XR Optics technology, which split a single fibre optic cable into many connections, all taking a share of the huge capacity. This means a single fibre could be used to provide multi-gigabit speeds to many customers at the same time.

The transceivers can also be remotely upgraded and configured, which Virgin Media said “allows the network operator to make changes quickly and easily, paving the way for simple upgrades to consumer services in future.”

Jeanie York, VM’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, said:

“Our next-generation network already offers gigabit connectivity to more than 7 million homes, but with data use and demand for hyperfast speeds surging, we’re continually investing in our network to prepare for whatever the future brings.

Innovations like this ensure our customers continue to benefit from the UK’s fastest widely available speeds, pave the way for future network upgrades and help support the rollout of multi-gigabit broadband and mobile services.”

The ability to “seamlessly” apply this sort of upgrade to an existing fibre network should help Virgin Media to keep pace with future capacity demands, which never stop growing and are also essential to help support the launch of ever-faster consumer broadband packages in the future.

UPDATE 11:22am

Virgin Media has informed us that the trial itself delivered a speed of 200Gbps, but they obviously expect it to go beyond that in the future.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
47 Responses
  1. The Facts says:

    Waiting for ‘will increase the digital divide’.

    1. GNewton says:

      Why? Perhaps suggest a solution for a change!

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Well, it will. Virgin services are already ridiculously overpriced for what you get. Just imagine the daft monthly cost of this speed when launched.

    3. Marek says:

      Guys, what the hell are you talking about? Do you think this is kind of service that can be offered to private person or small company? This seems to be for internal ISP network, maybe some service for very big companies or other ISP.

  2. MrTruth says:

    They need to focus on sorting out their existing network first, its a mess and they should be embarrassed.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      This is partly what the above announcement is about.

    2. JamesP says:

      Comment first, read later huh.

    3. Joseph says:

      Bit embarrassing.. sounds like perhaps you didn’t read the above.

  3. bing says:

    “symmetric transfer rates” for Virgin Media thats a first lel

  4. IPv6 says:

    When will they start supporting other half of the internet (IPv6)? Or at least, you know, not throttle 6in4 tunnels?

    1. Mark Scott says:

      IPv6 is nice to have but in reality what are people missing? it is like one of those western scenes where a circle of men all point guns to each others heads and are waiting for the first one to blink.

    2. IPv6 says:

      Ability to have as many static IPs as you want?

      To be honest, I don’t mind VM not supporting native DS IPv6, but the fact that the throttling bug of Super Hub 3 hasn’t been fixed for so long is appaling.

    3. idspispopd says:

      Hows about more than 1 IP on a business connection ? Pretty sure IPv6 can make that happen. But the real question is why are VM incapable of giving us IPv6 ? I’m sure the kit supports it.

      As for megagigabits, I’d be happy with just a working service. No VM today, so on mobile right now.

    4. Andrew Clayton says:

      > IPv6 is nice to have but in reality what are people missing?

      This website for a start https://loopsofzen.uk/

      Remember, IPv6 isn’t the future, it’s the present! For me, lack of IPv6 would be a show stopper. Just having clean end-to-end non-NAT’d connections is nice.

  5. JP says:

    Nothing conclusive here really is there, just the idea that there could be a fix for capacity issues at fibre nodes, not really any word on if they are putting it in place.

    The current assumption is that 10Gbe serves a node which need to move upwards to 100Gbe, the issues of late with uploads needs sorting to but I don’t think that’s going to happen until then roll Full Duplex D3.1 out on to network and I think they’ve a way to go before that can happen.

    1. CarlT says:

      Most nodes are not served by digital connections, they’re still using analogue optics, and 10G is absolutely fine for those that are using remote PHY.

  6. Anna says:

    But only 10Mbps in congested areas 😀

  7. Glenn says:

    Maybe work on supplying more remote areas first. Smaller towns and villages are crying out for better infrastructure

    1. JP says:

      That’s too expensive.

      Virgin whole expansion program seems to be based on extending coverage from existing areas and new build projects where costs of dropping ducts in the ground is greatly reduced and shared with other utilities and telecom’s providers.

    2. CarlT says:

      The digging to get a fraction of the way to a more remote area would cost more than this trial.

      They are building near their existing core network. This makes sense. They have a budget to keep to. They are branching out from it somewhat but have a cost limit per premises passed.

      Spending 7 figures to reach a thousand properties, before any digging to actually deploy to them, due to a really long branch off the existing network isn’t going to work too well.

    3. CarlT says:

      Sorry I should mention that that digging would have to be done twice. Two links to the remote area would be wanted to provide some resilience.

      Then they arrive there, and get to charge the same for these properties that cost 1.5k to reach as they do those that cost 500GBP each to reach.

      A tricky business case.

  8. Steve says:

    It’s a shame they don’t spend as much money on their customer service department. The service I have received from. Virgin Media the worst I’ve received from any company ever.

    1. JP says:

      Investing in people is certainly a thing of the past.

      I’m personally avoid companies not investing in British jobs and people, I’m sick of our money going out of our economy and not benefiting our people and country.

  9. Chris Sayers says:

    I guess the upload will still be 20mb….. I’m fed up with the claims, focus of gigabit symmetrical speeds first

    1. JP says:

      If there is something this past year has shown the industry, it is the need for upstream bandwidth and reality is the need for download speed is only decreasing as it increases.

    2. Peter says:

      Another person that didn’t read the article.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Lets hope the upstream speeds are increased as they are hopeless at the moment.
    Cloud storage and services limited by upstream constraint.

    Also apply the hotfix/firmware to their DOCSIS 3.1 cards to reduce latency to much closer to FTTP (as long as no underlying congestion that is).

    1. CarlT says:

      Low Latency DocSIS 3.1 requires a tad more than just a firmware upgrade. The lack of 3.1 upstreams might be a problem.

    2. Ping2High says:

      Their (VM’s) latency on FTTP is laughable in comparison to OR connections. Why am I seeing 20-30 milliseconds to or Google.com on an FTTP connection or any of the jitter? Yes, I’m aware that in reality 30ms is nothing and it’s very much a first world problem but why should OR’s be any lower?

    3. mike says:

      Average 15ms on Virgin Media:

      PING ( 56(84) bytes of data.
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=57 time=16.2 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=57 time=16.9 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=3 ttl=57 time=13.2 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=4 ttl=57 time=17.7 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=5 ttl=57 time=13.9 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=6 ttl=57 time=19.4 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=7 ttl=57 time=13.8 ms
      64 bytes from icmp_seq=8 ttl=57 time=14.0 ms
      — ping statistics —
      8 packets transmitted, 8 received, 0% packet loss, time 7009ms
      rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 13.211/15.681/19.441/2.100 ms

  11. Yevhen says:

    they can’t supply sustainable 100/10 Mbit even
    what are they talking about
    it rarely reaches 20 MB Download, Upload is complete c.ap
    it work more less after 11 pm
    their replies on complains even worse that their service

    1. bing says:

      just did speedtest on ethernet
      10ms ping
      643.38 download
      41.86 upload

      but the upload is crap you’re right there

    2. idspispopd says:

      VM was down all day yesterday. Its up and down today.
      Quite surprised there wasn’t an article about it, there was elsewhere.

      The sun reports

      VIRGIN INACTIVE Virgin Media DOWN as thousands of frustrated Brits left without internet or mobile coverage for second day in a row.

      Yep. I’m one of them. No service yesterday, patchy service today. Thank god I have 4G backup.

    3. bing says:

      it wasn’t out for me

    4. AQX says:

      The Sun will report anything, you could send a photo of a shit in the toilet, claim a burglar done it and they’d probably run it front page. Mobile was down for a few hours and back up, I was part of that outage but broadband wasn’t impacted.

    5. Just the facts maam says:

      It was a mobile problem, not a VM broadband issue.

      Although I agree they’ve had a lot of downtime in the last few months.

  12. Danny Clowes says:

    IPV6 is definitely needed its better for gaming. Virgin Media 1gbps speeds work just fine. However if they increase speeds

  13. Mike Tilbrook says:


    Me waving from my 3mb bt line(ship). I can only dream of those speeds.

  14. RGK says:

    Will Virgin’s future PON network use Docsis or will they use an ONT enabling customers to use their own router. Also how would this work with TV. Or is this only planned to be used as a backbone for there existing Docsis connections?

    Many Thanks

    1. henry says:

      As Infinera says, this is targeted business and backhaul. It is too expensive to use for residential customers.

    2. Archie says:

      As annoying as it is that they’ve essentially cheaped out on implementing fibre like everyone else, they’re not going to do it in the way you’ve described unless they create this alternative version of Virgin Media. I don’t love having their terrible SHub3 or their almost fake fibre.

    3. Rural Reading says:

      The FTTP PON networks built by VM over recent years are currently used with RFoG which allows them to use the same Cable Modems and TV boxes across their UK entire footprint.. Same product, same prices.
      As this article refers to, those same PON fibres can support 10G XGS PON (today). All that is needed is a new XGS PON version of the Hub and for OLTs to be installed at the other end of those fibres, without having to dig or replace cables..
      Likewise, this new prototype technology could be used in future on the very same FTTP PON infrastructure simultaneously with XGS PON, allowing a clear upgrade path without replacing cables again.

    4. Rural Reading says:

      forgot to mention..In an ideal world, everything would be IPTV, but its still possible to run 10G XGS PON simultaneously with a 1550nm RF Overlay for TV.

    5. henry says:

      The upgrade path for residential customers will most likely take a different path, because other PON technologies will be much cheaper to deploy.

    6. henry says:

      One way it of using this technology is to feed x number of remote OLT nodes/cabinets. There are 16 subcarriers, each with a capacity of 25 Gbps (both directions). Each subcarrier could feed an OLT.

      These OLTs then use a much cheaper way of delivering FTTH to end customers.

  15. Evo says:

    Could we have at least a gigabit and an improvement in upload speeds like…Everywhere first please?

    1. bing says:

      You didn’t read the article I’m guessing

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