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Virgin Media Make Gigabit Speeds Available to 1.2 Million Scottish Homes

Wednesday, December 1st, 2021 (1:58 pm) - Score 3,216
Virgin-Media-O2-Fibre-Splicing

UK ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) has today confirmed that their entire network of 1.2 million premises in Scotland now have access to gigabit broadband speeds (1130Mbps downloads and 52Mbps up), although this figure includes some areas that have previously already been upgraded to the DOCSIS 3.1 standard.

At the last D3.1 rollout update in November (here), we noted that the operator had already upgraded 14.3 million of their covered premises to the new cable standard, which effectively left 1.2 million premises to go before achieving their completion target by the end of 2021 (VM’s network covers a total of around 15.5m premises).

However, the 1.2 million figure announced today for Scotland actually includes a big chunk of DOCSIS 3.1 upgrades that were unveiled in previous phases of the rollout programme. But sadly, their announcement fails to clarify precisely how many more have just been added (today) to complete the deployment north of the border.

Previously, a good chunk of Virgin Media’s customers on their existing EuroDOCSIS 3.0 based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network could already access top ultrafast speeds of c.630Mbps (Ultimate Oomph TV bundle), but by adopting the D3.1 standard they’ve been able to significantly boost the downstream performance up to 1Gbps (potentially hitting 2Gbps+ in the future).

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.

Since 2015, the provider has also invested more than £180 million via Project Lightning to expand their network coverage to another 300,000 Scottish homes and businesses, with tens of thousands of additional homes being added in the last year alone – including in Glasgow, East Lothian, Dundee, Fife, East Renfrewshire and Angus.

Rob Evans, VMO2’s MD of Fixed Network Expansion, said:

“We’re delivering on our mission to upgrade the UK, investing in our network to help the country bounce back stronger.

Our latest gigabit switch-on means that every home connected to our network in Scotland is now able to access ultrafast speeds fit for today and fit for the future.

Whether it’s through our gigabit roll out, 4G and 5G upgrades or network expansion, we’re going further and faster to deliver next-generation services for the people of Scotland.”

Customers who take out the related Gig1Fibre package from Virgin Media today will usually be sent a D3.1 capable HUB 4.0 (TG3492LG-VMB / Gigabit Connect Box) router, and you can see the specification for that in this article. But they’ve also pre-launched a much more capable HUB 5.0 (Sagemcom F3896LG-VMB) router (details).

Prices for the new 1Gbps broadband package typically start from £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 their various Pay TV and phone bundles, albeit at extra cost.

One catch here is that D3.1 has only been applied to the downstream side, while uploads remain hobbled by the older EuroDOCSIS 3.0 standard. The operator does intend to go back and upgrade their entire network – c.14.3 million premises in existing HFC areas (the rest are on full fibre) – to FTTP by the end of 2028 (here), but we understand that existing HFC customers won’t have to wait for that in order to get better uploads (the plan for this is still unclear).

Elsewhere, VMO2 also plans to expand their 5G mobile coverage to cover 50% of the population in 2023.

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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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13 Responses
  1. El Guapo says:

    Pity they haven’t got any electricity to enjoy it with.

    1. John says:

      They do though.

      Less than 9,500 customers are without power in Scotland.
      Virgin Media cover 1.2 million properties in Scotland.

      Virgins coverage is almost exclusively urban.
      The power cuts are predominantly in rural areas.
      The majority of those affected by power cuts are in Aberdeenshire where Virgin have absolutely zero coverage.

    2. Martin says:

      El Guapo – can I nominate you for the sickest comment of the year award?

    3. El Guapo says:

      @martin sickest comment? wow you have a fragile mind. If you think that was “sick”.
      it was actually supposed to be anger at the power companies and the government, not to ridicule the people that don’t have power. It’s an absolute disgrace, woman with baby, no heat or electricity for 5 days.

      Perhaps you should stay off the internet if you offend so easily.

    4. Martin says:

      When you have dozens of tress snapped like twigs, power lines and telephone lines to towns, villages and remoter properties damaged in multiple places, I suppose it is easy to use words like “disgrace”. I could add to the list of problems, damage to fencing, roofs, caravans etc and other problems. This storm was exceptional in its severity in inland areas. We still have over 200 faults in our local power distribution area. Looking at the map, these are different from what was showing on Saturday.

      Power supply was privatized by the Mrs Thatcher’s government in the 1980s so has nothing to do with the government. Our local council has been trying to help those in isolated places.

  2. James™ says:

    Great to see that all Scottish properties with VM can enjoy full Gigabit speeds. Well on the downstream, hopefully they will increase a bit on the upstream especially for their M500/G1 packages.

    1. aqx says:

      Based on their response, they will probably start doing baby trials for small increases in 2022 but most likely won’t do anything until 23/24 or later.

    2. A_Builder says:

      By which stage their FTTP rollout will be advancing and so upgrading the whole coax upstream shooting match to full 1G seems unlikely when they will be able to do 1G upstream on the FTTP estate whenever they choose as they are going straight to 10G capable PON.

      The coax estate is EOL, they have said that themselves, so they might just as well move faster on the coax -> FTTP transtion rather than waste money on short term fixes.

      That said some bits of the coax estate will, I suspect, see 3.1 upstream to cope with competition or where there is competition and the coax -> FTTP transition is doing to be at the back of the queue.

    3. anonymous says:

      They have not said the coax estate is EOL and will be supporting it for quite some time to come. It’s going to take a number of years to migrate people from HFC to FTTP even after the build is completed.

      3.1 upstream is definitely going to be a thing. VM are just finishing up HFC upgrades to the last areas to allow both 3.1 downstream and increase capacity upstream. No further major upgrades to the HFC itself in terms of spectrum increase but line cards and node splits will certainly continue.

    4. A_Builder says:

      “They have not said the coax estate is EOL and will be supporting it for quite some time to come. It’s going to take a number of years to migrate people from HFC to FTTP even after the build is completed.

      You wouldn’t bother overlaying the whole coax with FTTP is the coax wasn’t EOL. The statement of a full rebuild is a clear statement of that. Yes, it will take a while but I do expect VM to migrate areas with FTTP as fast as possible so they can get rid of coax maintenance and it **will** allow them to differentiate from OR on upstream.

      “3.1 upstream is definitely going to be a thing. VM are just finishing up HFC upgrades to the last areas to allow both 3.1 downstream and increase capacity upstream. No further major upgrades to the HFC itself in terms of spectrum increase but line cards and node splits will certainly continue.”

      It will be in some place for sure – as I said in my initial comment.

      In some areas where there is already full fibre I see things being forked to fibre only pretty shortly as step one of the migrations. i.e. where there is no HFC estate in the vicinity – these are pretty clean to put on the new path.

    5. anonymous says:

      It’s not that the coax is EOL, just that the cost of upgrading the active components for DoCSIS 4 is close enough to the cost of getting the network ready for XGSPON to make the overbuild worthwhile.

      There’s life in the network yet – it’s been upgraded very recently in some areas.

      Even getting FTTP areas to all fibre rather than RFoG isn’t going to be immediate – need a new ONT, a way to power that ONT and new in-home installation and CPE: the current modems and set tops expect coax.

    6. anonymous says:

      3.1 upstream is intended for a national rollout. It’s needed for the next service tier.

      Extra capacity on the downstream is to be added, too.

      The initial build is going to get homes in a position where they may be migrated, there is then the matter of getting fibre to them, new ONT, replace in-home installation and CPE.

      I’m not sure what the timescales are planned to be but am quite sure it’ll take a while to get all customers off the HFC. In the meantime tactical migrations will be a thing where customers order new products or for capacity relief of the broadband HFC.

      I don’t think compulsory migrations have been decided on as a thing yet. Certainly can’t just go along roads disconnecting HFC and pulling fibre and the final drop and install past the swept tee will be difficult and time consuming in some cases.

      To switch off your average optical node VM need to move 200-250 live customers. Getting fibre into those properties alongside something to terminate it on and the relevant home installation and CPE to provide TV service where taken will be time-consuming. Repeat ~20,000 times.

    7. A_Builder says:

      “3.1 upstream is intended for a national rollout. It’s needed for the next service tier.”

      Maybe but given the accelerating pace of national FTTP rollout VM won’t want to be left behind and there is zero point in paying for a 3.1 upgrade to an area covered by FTTP in the next few months.

      “The initial build is going to get homes in a position where they may be migrated, there is then the matter of getting fibre to them, new ONT, replace in-home installation and CPE.”

      I think that is called premises passed?

      I’m not sure what the timescales are planned to be but am quite sure it’ll take a while to get all customers off the HFC. In the meantime tactical migrations will be a thing where customers order new products or for capacity relief of the broadband HFC.

      “I don’t think compulsory migrations have been decided on as a thing yet. Certainly can’t just go along roads disconnecting HFC and pulling fibre and the final drop and install past the swept tee will be difficult and time consuming in some cases.”

      At some point you have to otherwise there is a massive cost to maintaining two different networks and paying the 3.1 license fees. As well as the skills of an HFC and an FTTP workforce. Economics and business sense drive the need to switch off HFC as soon as possible. Yes that will be area by area.

      “To switch off your average optical node VM need to move 200-250 live customers. Getting fibre into those properties alongside something to terminate it on and the relevant home installation and CPE to provide TV service where taken will be time-consuming. Repeat ~20,000 times.”

      At some point this will have to be done. OR have a plan. I can’t believe that VM don’t have a similar plan as it is a vital part of the cash flow plan and the P&L plan.

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