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Virgin Media O2 UK Conducts Third 2.2Gbps Broadband Trial

Wednesday, October 13th, 2021 (4:01 pm) - Score 6,552
virgin media engineer jacket close up

UK ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) has confirmed that they’ve conducted a third trial of 2.2Gbps download speeds on their upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 network, which this time took place in the cities of Edinburgh and Birmingham. Previous trials took place in the town of Thatcham and parts of Southampton and Manchester (here and here).

At present the operator is in the final throes of upgrading their existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) based network to support the D3.1 standard (here), which has pushed top download speeds of 1,130Mbps to be within reach of 12.8 million UK premises (this up from a top speed of c.630Mbps under their old EuroDOCSIS 3.0 standard). Only around 2-3 million premises are left to completed by the end of 2021.

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

As we’ve said before, the D3.1 standard is theoretically capable of achieving peak downstream speeds of up to 10Gbps and 2Gbps upload, which means that Virgin Media has scope to push beyond 1Gbps in the future to help keep pace with rivals; at least until they can complete their wider upgrade to FTTP by the end of 2028 (here).

The latest trial in Edinburgh and Birmingham doesn’t appear to have done anything different from the previous trials, which makes us think that this may be more about reassuring investors that they’ll be able to keep pace until full fibre is ready.

Jeanie York, VMO2’s Chief Technology Officer, said:

“We are on a mission to upgrade the UK and our continued network investment is helping ensure our infrastructure is not only fit for today, but fit for the future.

As the UK’s largest gigabit broadband provider, we’re always looking to go further and faster. With our latest multi-gigabit trial in Birmingham and Edinburgh, we’re putting this commitment to innovation into action, demonstrating the true power of our network and getting ready for the technology of tomorrow.”

One possible problem here is that today’s announcement makes no mention of upload speeds for the trial, which is one area where VMO2 have traditionally struggled. The original 2.2Gbps trial actually managed to attain a respectable upload speed of 214Mbps (average) by applying D3.1 to the upstream channels.

However, VMO2’s second trial, which took place earlier this year, only used D3.0 for upstream and so dropped back to c.50Mbps. We strongly suspect that this trial may also be 50Mbps and are trying to confirm. VMO2 would need to spend a bit more time and money to deploy D3.1 across upstream, and it’s presently unclear whether or when they’ll do that.

As with the previous trials, this one also made use of their latest 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 D3.1 support.

UPDATE 4:25pm

We’ve confirmed that the upstream remains limited to c.50Mbps.

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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
23 Responses
  1. Yatta! says:

    Please focus on increasing upload VM, 1Gbps down is already enough.

    1. aaaa says:

      exactly, the second i get a good alternative to virgin media im leaving

    2. Buggerlugz says:

      Kinda missing the point unless they do the upload too, isn’t it.

    3. Billy Nomates says:

      Yup.

      No need for 2Gigabit at my house. No need for 1.
      There is a need for more than 50mbit upload though.
      IPv6 would be nice too.

  2. Sam says:

    Yeah seems pointless given their upload speed is pants.

  3. argonaut56d says:

    My download speed is generally very good averaging around 342. But the upload is so out of date. Average is around 31. That’s poor considering their download speed.

    My son started Reading Uni a few weeks ago and they have Hyperoptic, blimey!!! Speedtest was 870 download and 686 upload!

    I’d be perfectly happy with a 200/100 package as don’t really need faster than that?

    Am out of contract and am waiting an update from BT (and hopefully other ISP’s) on when FTTP is going live in my road? Spoke to contractors yesterday and they said they had done my section 2 months ago!!

  4. Ben says:

    2,200Mb download and 50Mb upload really is laughable. Virgin Media need to be extremely careful with their advertising — their most recent advert featured numerous activities which benefit from fast upload speeds, which is unfortunate.

    1. Gary says:

      I’ve not seen the advert you’re talking about but even at 52mbps (Virgin’s Gig1 package upload speed), guess how data you’d be able to upload in an hour? 24.3 Gigabytes, or a gigabyte every every 2 1/2 minutes.

      Whilst their up to down ratio looks shocking, in reality people are not using anywhere near as much upload bandwidth as they are download. Most people who are on FTTC are lucky to see 15mbps upload.

      I’m uploading multi-gigabit files on Virgin regularly and you barely notice the time pass.

      A lot of big moaners on here with respect to upload speeds. Synchronous gigabit is headed to virtually everyone’s front door in the next few years so be glad. At least it isn’t like it used to be in the early to mid 2000s, not knowing whether you’d ever see better speeds. Whilst I’m no big fan of our current government I’m glad they’ve starting shoving cash into suppliers hands to get fibre to almost everyone. Even if it is ten years later than anyone would’ve liked!

    2. Billy Nomates says:

      Gary.. synchronous gigabit is not coming to every door. Openreach does not do XGS-PON and the upload is on the order of 200mbit. They’re not going to change that any soon.

      And as for the “big moaners”, you’re on an ISP review forum where many of us are either network engineers, or pro home users. We’re not your average internet user, and we want something more. VM’s parent company Liberty Global offers much higher upload speeds on their German/Dutch/Polish cable networks .. why is the UK only getting 50mbit? They can do it, they just don’t want to.

      They could offer more than 50 mbit without DOCSIS 3.1 as well.

    3. Gary says:

      @BillyNomates

      *Yawn*. I enjoy these kneejerk replies in which people don’t read.

      Go on, write all about how much of a ‘pro user’ you are and how much you desperately need so much more upload. I’ll be sure never to read it.

    4. Billy Nomates says:

      Degree in Network comms.. Have to upload large images, videos etc.
      get out with your obnoxious I know everything comments and nobody can possibly need upload bandwidth.

      If you want to live with 50mbit fine. Not all of us do. Don’t be so goddam rude.

    5. Rich says:

      What’s even more laughable is 2.2gbps down with only 1gbps ethernet ports, as if someone willing to spring for this wouldn’t likely want to use their own router.

      Yes, balance-rr seems to work on the SH4, but it’s undocumented and unsupported.

  5. Roger_Gooner says:

    “We’ve confirmed that the upstream remains limited to c.50Mbps.”
    I find this surprising, Mark, as you reported that the trial in Bershire in 2020 deployed DOCSIS 3.1 on their upstream channels, and surely VM would want to use 3.1 to get higher upload speeds.

    1. Upstream 3.1 says:

      Requires new upstream modules. Whatever they were testing it may not have involved the upstream.

      The current modules on the Cisco side are the PID—CBR-D30-US-MOD, need the PID—CBR-D31-US-MOD to allow use of 3.1 and it comes with interoperability caveats with 3.0 if run in mixed mode across the entire spectrum.

      Once there are more Hub 4s out there they can cut the areas with 6 upstream channels to 4 or less and place an OFDMA channel there instead.

      This is what Spectrum are doing and Comcast working on.

  6. sebbb says:

    I have to second the comments and ask myself: why on earth would they not give to ANY new customers the Hub 4.0 so that they can have a gradual migration on DOCSIS3.1 kit and then refarm the upstream sooner? (Because afaik the upstream limit to 50Mbps is purely because the 3.1 upstream is not compatible with the old 3.0 kit).
    It goes beyond my comprehension, is it because they’re afraid of not having enough Hubs with the global semiconductors shortage? In Italy they give you the new routers even with an ADSL (if that’s the only service you have available and you setup a new line).

    1. A says:

      Likely just have a lot of Hub 3s they don’t want to waste.

    2. Jon says:

      1) Got to sweat the assets
      2) Getting existing customers to change out what is in their opinion perfectly good kit is not always easy
      3) There may be logistical issues, especially with the issues surrounding electronics production and the shipping industry at present
      4) It would require effort that they quite simply don’t have to make just now

      (For what it’s worth I’m not defending this, just listing some of the possible factors…)

    3. sebbb says:

      @Jon yes I know about the global shortage, of course. However the Hub 4 has been around for what, 3 years? And now is even “old” if I compare it with the CPE that Vodafone (for example) ships in Italy and Spain on FTTP, which is WiFi 6.
      But yeah, I get that they may have a lot of Hub 3s ageing in warehouses…

    4. John says:

      “Because afaik the upstream limit to 50Mbps is purely because the 3.1 upstream is not compatible with the old 3.0 kit”

      It isn’t just that the modems and cabinets need upgrading to 3.1 hardware

      In many areas they need to do physical network rearrangements to make 3.1 possible on the upstream.

      It’s considerably more work than enabling 3.1 on the downstream of they would have done both at the same time.

  7. Clive Jackson says:

    Maybe they’ve given up on upload as they’re moving the entire network over to FTTH

    1. Winston Smith says:

      It’s a long time until 2028, when that’s due to be completed and AFAIK they haven’t started yet.

      With Openreach rapidly rolling out FTTP, I think they’ll be forced to improve upload speeds on at least some of the HFC network.

  8. Jason says:

    virgins network is laughable in peaktimes anyway. They try to blind people with speed headlines but in reality you rarely get near it

  9. Pete says:

    As a customer who only joined Virgin in June in one of their Fibre areas. At the time the max speed for the area was M600 I ordered the M500 package and was given a SH3 despite them saying on the phone it would be a 4 so this isn’t just existing customers not being issued new kit.

    What I would say though is that I get a rock steady 540Mbps down and 37 up which only dips as low as 450 even at peak times, it’s been a noticeable improvement compared to BT FTTC as BT happily ran FTTH to either end of my estate and missed the bit in the middle!

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