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Virgin Media Switch-on 1Gbps Broadband for 1.5 Million More UK Premises

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021 (10:51 am) - Score 10,104
Virgin Media O2 Network Engineer and Map

UK ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) has today switched-on their DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade for 1.5 million more premises (total 8m) in places such as Bournemouth, Bristol, Northampton, Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Wigan and York, which means they can now access their top Gig1 service (1130Mbps download and 52Mbps upload).

At present, VMO2’s customers can already access top ultrafast speeds of c.630Mbps (Ultimate Oomph TV bundle) via the operator’s existing EuroDOCSIS 3.0 based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network. But their ongoing upgrade to the latest DOCSIS 3.1 network standard is gradually making gigabit speeds available.

NOTE: D3.1 improves performance by utilising enhancements like Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM), which can encode data by using multiple carrier frequencies, and boosting the amount of radio spectrum up to 200MHz. This also supports other enhancements like Distributed Access Architecture / Remote Phy (R-PHY) – here and here.

Until today, a little over 7 million premises had already gained access to this upgrade across big parts of London, N.Ireland, South Wales, Southampton, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow and various surrounding areas.

The rest of their network – 15.5 million premises in total (likely to hit 16m in around 12-months’ time) – are planned to follow by the end of 2021. For the next few years’ VM will thus be able to claim that they’re the largest UK provider of gigabit speeds, even if it is only the on the downstream side (upstream is still D3.0.. for now). Openreach does plan to reach 25 million premises with gigabit FTTP by December 2026, but they’re currently only at 5 million.

Lutz Schüler, CEO of VMO2, said:

“We are upgrading the UK to next-generation connectivity and today we’re hitting another important milestone with more than half of our network now able to access gigabit speeds.

As the UK’s largest gigabit broadband provider today, with a clear plan to connect our entire network to these speeds by the end of the year, we’ll be delivering most of the Government’s broadband target ahead of schedule. Our continued investment is propelling the country up gigabit league tables and providing consumers with the connectivity they need both now and in future.”

Customers who take out the related 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. The HUB 4.0 is VM’s only router with DOCSIS 3.1 support, although they have made the device available on some slower packages in certain areas to help tackle issues of high utilisation (here).

Prices for the new 1Gbps broadband package typically start at £62 per month (standalone broadband) on an 18-month term and come attached to a guaranteed price freeze for at least 24 months. Customers can also take this alongside Virgin Media’s various Pay TV packages, albeit at extra cost.

However, VMO2 does have a future “ambition” to expand their gigabit-capable broadband network (via FTTP) to reach an extra 7 million homes over the next five years. On top of that, they’ll also go back to upgrade their entire fixed line network – c.14.3 million premises in existing Hybrid Fibre Coax areas – to FTTP by the end of 2028 (here). A wholesale solution for UK ISPs is also being prepared.

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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.
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70 Responses
  1. Steveo says:

    2050: Virgin Media launches galactic fibre. 10Gbit down. 50Mbit up.

    1. CarlT says:

      That’d be hilarious if they hadn’t already announced they’re overbuilding their hybrid network with XGSPON FTTP.

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/07/virgin-media-o2-to-replace-existing-uk-network-with-full-fibre.html

      We’re actually looking at Openreach-supplied ISPs having the most asymmetric ratio in the not too distant future if they don’t abandon constraining upstream bandwidth as a way to protect dedicated circuit revenues.

    2. Rich says:

      Not really, Openreach GEA-FTTP offer either 110 or 220 upload at the same downstream speed band as Vermin offer 55mbit.

  2. Buggerlugz says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if its still only 10Mb up in 2050..

    1. CarlT says:

      You didn’t want to pay for any more than the 100/10 product.

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Too right, I expect it to be the same.

  3. Mark Scott says:

    I spoke to VM to order it in Melksham but they said it would be a couple of weeks for the down-level POPs to get the service.

  4. Gary says:

    Again… More places in the Midlands but not Nottingham, Leicester or Derby? Come on! What’s bloody taking so long?!

  5. Mike says:

    When will Cumbria get this upgrade

    1. joshe says:

      By the end of this year.

  6. Antwan says:

    Was about to joke about their uplink when I saw the comments above.

    Nothing more to add: FTTH is future proof, copper isn’t.

    1. henry says:

      Coax can do a lot, more than you may think. The current upload tier is based on a return path that hasn’t been upgraded. The question is now how much of an upgrade it will ever get (because of the new FTTP plans).

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      You’d probably need another coax is why.

    3. A_Builder says:

      @Henry

      Just enough so VM don’t bleed too many customers before XGSGPON hits the streets…..

      That said: some areas are cheaper and easier than others for 3.1 so maybe there will be a bit of 3.1 upstream but I’d be pretty sure that VM’s modelling will be on full fibre…..saves cash long and short term….

      As CarlT says up the thread VM going XGS might well force OR to go XGS otherwise VM will hoover up the dedicated circuit market.

    4. henry says:

      Coax will live alongside XGS-PON for a long time, so yes, they will probably introduce 3.1 in the upstream at some point, but the big gain is when the upstream spectrum is upgraded – which is also the most costly thing to do, so this type of upgrade may be hindered by the fibre initiative.

    5. MikeyMole says:

      Naaaaaah DOCSIS is alright! DOCSIS 4.0 would beat the crap outta FTTP GPON 🙂

    6. CarlT says:

      They won’t be spending on extensive return path upgrades. The business case for FTTP is partly based around savings from not having to move to a high split.

    7. CarlT says:

      As far as needing new coax goes what’s there is fine: the active equipment, nodes and amplifiers, are where most of the upgrades need to be.

      Splitters, isolators and forward path attenuators would need replacing depending how they do things.

      The actual coax is good to 3 GHz and many areas are only using 750 MHz with none above 860 yet.

      There will be 3.1 upstream with existing HFC, FTTP is in lieu of 4.0.

  7. Yes says:

    Jesus christ that price for that upload…

    1. Buggerlugz says:

      Absolutely, laughable isn’t it.

  8. adslmax says:

    Been checking my post code via virgin media and it say I can get 1130Mbps down and 52Mbps up (upload are very poor indeed) and still expensive £62 a month but when I spoken to chat team with virgin they say the website are error as my area doesn’t have 1Gig only M500!

    Another failure from VM. Make sure u spoken to the team first because the site could be wrong!

    1. CarlT says:

      You’re under a long contract. Why are you calling VM, thought the service in Telford was awful anyway?

    2. adslmax says:

      CarlT – only checking verifying if my area are 1Gig so I will know it will put more pressure on Openreach to roll out 1Gig FTTP lol (I will never order from Virgin because I know my area are badly congested awful with VM)

    3. adslmax says:

      CarlT – Openreach are probably know that FTTC 40/10 and 80/20 for my area are more than enough for poorest families in my area. They would never afford FTTP or 1Gig from Virgin anyway.

      I was lucky as my G.fast 227/32 £57 a month was only paid half between myself and my daughter is a win-win.

    4. Mark Scott says:

      If you are moaning that 56Mb/a us poor then look at other providers, if you are moaning the upload is not what you are paying for, call their support. Using brackets does nothing for understanding.

  9. Martyn says:

    Just rang for an upgrade price I’m on ultimate oomph £72.99 they want £111 a month £35 activation no chance absolute rip off

  10. Aled says:

    That’s a monster sized comms cabinet. Is that the standard size now, or an oversized unit for an estate?

    1. Winston Smith says:

      According to elswhere on this site:

      https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/12/identifying-bt-and-virgin-medias-uk-broadband-street-furniture-2019.html

      that’s a VMVH1 nodal cabinet serving up to 3000 homes.

  11. Adam says:

    They want an extra tenner a month (from M500) for the upgrade along with a £35 activation fee for “backend work and the HUB 4”.

    1. Martyn says:

      I would jump at that

  12. Finneas McClintock says:

    Has there been any indication of when we might start to see DOCSIS 3.1 used on the upstream?

    1. John says:

      Possibly never.

      They have plans to replace DOCSIS with XGS-PON.
      There’s very little point doing both upgrades.

      It might be cost effective in some areas but there’s absolutely no way Virgin will upgrade all their UK network (or even most of it) to 3.1 on the upstream.

    2. MikeyMole says:

      I was speaking to a VM engineer and he seemed very certain about the D3.1 upstream upgrade – said they had been putting all the kit in place for it.

    3. anonymous says:

      VM already committed to 3.1 in the upstream as they want to get the download/upload ratio correct again. It was something like a hub profile of 110mbps for upstream they were trying to achieve. It requires frequency work, many areas for noise issues before they can release 3.1 on upstream and I think some cabinets had to be split/upgraded because of current utilisation.

  13. Robin says:

    I’m pleased to see VMO2 improving their network and especially planning to roll out FTTP. I have co-ax in the street so, although it might be a misguided view, it feels more tangible than the prospect of having my area annointed by OpenReach or an AltNet.

    Of course, this all hinges on their upcoming wholesale offering because I would be reluctant to become a direct retail customer of theirs based on what I’ve heard and experienced. I’m currently with IDNet over FTTC and if VMO2 they can attract a nice ISP like that, someone with good customer service who insulate me a bit from them, then it would be worth a premium.

    1. NE555 says:

      If the reported problems with VM are due to over-subscription of the last mile cable network, then wholesaling to third-party ISPs is only going to make things worse. Let’s hope they only do it in areas with sufficient capacity.

      Switching to FTTP may resolve this, but then they also have to switch away from doing DOCSIS-over-glass. I suspect it will take a long time to get there, similar to Openreach’s Dec 2026 aspirations, but at least this is now in their planning.

    2. CarlT says:

      Looks an awful lot like they will not be wholesaling cable services, only FTTP.

    3. Roger_Gooner says:

      @NE555: “Switching to FTTP may resolve this, but then they also have to switch away from doing DOCSIS-over-glass”
      RFoG is an interim solution. Broadband was always going to be moved to a version of PON and VOD has already been moved from the the DVB-C broadcast spectrum to the IP (DOCSIS) spectrum. In time linear TV will also be delivered over IP, so there won’t be a need for DVB-C broadcast spectrum.

  14. Steve says:

    Just checked the what can i get section of the Virgin media site and here nr Swansea i can order 1gig. How accurate is this checker?
    Not seen any mention of my area being 1 gig capable. Wondering if it’s in today’s announcement.

  15. Steve says:

    Doesn’t mention Swansea but on chat it is available.
    £67 for 1 gig bb only
    £111 Ultimate oomph on 1 gig

  16. FibreAddict says:

    Lol with my Cityfibre backend 1000/1000 for only £40 per month

    1. MikeyMole says:

      You must be in internet nirvana. What’s it like in the future?

    2. CarlT says:

      Great, though there is the minor issue that 98% of the UK can’t get CityFibre.

  17. James says:

    62 pounds? HAHA, You can get like 2x that from the likes of CityFiber and Hyperoptic!

    1. CarlT says:

      Can you? Cool. I have no CityFibre or Hyperoptic option here, they each having coverage of about 2% of the country.

    1. Aaron says:

      “The technology is capable of delivering symmetrical 10Gbps download and upload speeds.”

      Just because it’s available, doesn’t mean they’ll do it.
      For example look at their existing network capable of delivering more…

    2. Winston Smith says:

      The symmetrical 10 Gbps figure refers to the capacity of the fibre XGS-PONs that will replace the HFC last-mile. This capacity is shared by however many users are connected to a given splitter, so don’t expect a single user to get this performance.

      While DOCSIS 3.0 is theoretically capable of 1Gbps up and 100Mbps down, VMO2’s HFC network currently is not.

  18. mark says:

    I’m confused why the upload is a problem , surely 99.9999999999999% of the population wouldn’t need upload speeds to be the same as download? I get that the concentration of geeks that may need 1G upload will be higher on this site but for the rest of us its not a problem. To be fair 99.9999999999% of people would be just chucking their money away upgrading the download above 100Mb anyway…

    1. JmJohnson says:

      The 20 (download) to 1 (upload) ratio is the issue.
      If Onedrive etc is uploading then due to the ratio being so close to 23 to 1 the download is greatly affected whereas a ratio of 10 to 1 would be impacted at half the scale.

      Example…
      Onedrive uploading using 23Mbps upload.
      On Virgins network that leaves roughly 999 down and 27 up.
      On Openreach that leaves 909 down and 87 up.

      Apply the theoretical use ratio to the remaining upload bandwidth and we see that…
      On Virgins network you could only use 621 of the remaining 999
      Whilst on Openreach you could use all of the 909 (ratio has soo much headroom that you could get a 2Gb package if they offered it and still be fine).

      That is why upload speeds matter if you pay for top tier download speeds.

  19. JmJohnson says:

    That 1000 down, 50 up ratio is awfully close to the theoretical limit of ~23 to 1 that TCP/IP uses. (We’re not accounting for connectionless streams nor empty acks).
    If anything uses your upload then expect your download bandwidth to suffer.
    This is why Openreach stay around a 10 to 1 ratio.

    Virgin advertising the max line speed as opposed to theoretical use speed is near deceptive as it isn’t obtainable in real-life.

    1. CarlT says:

      Where did this 23 to 1 ratio come from, please?

      Even if acknowledging each and every packet, which doesn’t happen unless TCP settings have been changed, 1500 bytes is acknowledged by a 40 byte ack?

      Can certainly reach over a gigabit on the service but need to be in router mode using multiple devices. VM overprovision by 10% on the upstream and 15% on downstream

    2. mark says:

      Yes but how many people does that apply too ? , the vast majority of people don’t upload much at all, even taking into account WFH most files people deal with are in the MB not GB .It’s all because the headline 1Gb download is the target the ISP’s have been given so that is what they are working towards. So many people are over paying for speeds they don’t really need they just think they do.

    3. Winston Smith says:

      DOCSIS supports TCP ACK supression apparently.

      https://mailarchive.ietf.org/arch/msg/aqm/Q0xMe1qRnUi8VM_qKLtSnJDtck8/

    4. Winston Smith says:

      Snipped from the link above;

      >Just as a data point from my home connection, I have 250/50 (down/up) and
      >when downloading at 250 megabit/s, the upstream traffic is reduced by
      >approximately 20x, so instead of sending 10 megabit/s (or so) of ACKs, I
      >see approximately 500 kilobits/s of ACKs.

    5. CarlT says:

      On top of that are cumulative acknowledgement and selective acknowledgement which are both features of TCP stacks.

      Virgin Media’s original 50 Mbit package was 53 down, 1.75 up.

    6. JmJohnson says:

      CarlT… 23 to 1 is roughly the limit in the control aspect of the TCP stack.

      As for the argument of the size of an ACK packet… yes it’s small but unless we’re sending/receiving streams then that’s part of the issue as data is sent as packets… we could fit 20 odd ACK packets into the standard 1500 packet but that’s a different topic delving into Delayed ACK, TCPNoDelay etc.

      Mark… you’d be surprised with the amount of people using Onedrive, Google Drive, Dropbox etc. Hell… even Windows recommends using Onedrive for backup etc during setup.

    7. CarlT says:

      Even if acknowledging every packet you’re sending a 40 byte response for each 1500 bytes, 1460 payload, received, and nothing acknowledges every packet as there’s no point.

      Depending on the window sizes, stack in use, etc, it’s perfectly possible to acknowledge megabytes of data with a single acknowledgement.

      I don’t understand the basic premise of this ratio. TCP optimisation was a major part of my job for 9 years and I still work with TCP all the time as a network engineer working with DPI but I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. I have never heard of that figure or seen it in any network. ‘Chatter’ reduction has been around since the early 80s.

      Indeed, if I saw that ratio in a production network I’d think something were wrong and look for whatever is constraining MSS so heavily that it’s below 1000 and why no cumulative acknowledgements, delayed acknowledgment or use of Nagle.

      I’ve no idea of any of this, either from theory or practice so will drop out of this one.

  20. Mark says:

    Yes most people use OneDrive etc.Still doesn’t mean they are uploading huge amounts.So are you saying the average person uploads as much data as they download?

  21. David says:

    When will VM Business offer 1gig? Residential has had it for months and months now. Half of the residential homes now have it. Yet VM Business, which is normally first to market the higher speeds, still have 500mb as their top tier?

    1. CarlT says:

      Business haven’t been ahead of residential for ages as far as the download speeds go.

      Will happen when their static IP service can support it. Either the modem or the other side of the tunnel can’t do GRE at a gigabit.

  22. Connor says:

    Upgraded to it myself and noticed I only have one DOCSIS 3.1 channel and the remaining are 3.0 but still getting gigabit speeds.

    1. CarlT says:

      Yep as it should be. The 3.1 channel is way bigger than a 3.0 channel and runs alongside.

      You’ve 1.6 Gbit/s of capacity from the 3.0 channels and 900 Mbit/s+ from the 3.1 channel.

    2. henry says:

      The modem only supports two downstream 3.1 channels. You would need more than 70 3.0 channels to get the same capacity as those two can deliver. A 3.1 channel is that more powerful.

  23. JitteryPinger says:

    The same faces all the time that can’t handle a bit of tongue in cheek, Virgin Media has got to be the most entertaining ISP for conversation and also its fans and haters.

  24. Nicholas Ashfield says:

    After a bit of negotiating, I was able to extract a poxy £3 per month discount from £62 to £59. They also waived the £35 activation fee and promised no price increase during first 18 month contract. Will then move to CityFibre once available since they’re only charging £40 per month for 1Gbps.

    1. David sobis says:

      I am also a virgin media I’m on m500 mpbs broadband only at £20 but at a £42 pound discount so I was hopefully upgrade to gig1 at £40 but the only reduce price was £59 overpriced this gig1 is

      So I told virgin where to stick it £59 up there bum and wait until Black Friday or jan sales to try to haggle again then …

  25. Glenn says:

    Is this article correct
    I live in Bournemouth and repeatedly Virgin Media are saying that 1Gig is not available in this area yet

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