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Virgin Media UK Update on Plan to Withdraw Upp’s Full Fibre

Thursday, Jan 18th, 2024 (12:05 am) - Score 29,920
Upp-Engineers-Jacket

Customers of alternative UK full fibre broadband ISP Upp, which was last year acquired from investment firm LetterOne by network builder nexfibre (Virgin Media) for an undisclosed sum (here), have this week been notified that their service will be withdrawn “sometime” in 2024, when they’ll be switched to Virgin. But questions remain.

The deal – as agreed in September 2023 – was largely seen as an attempt by nexfibre to help expand the reach of their own gigabit-capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network, which is currently in the process of building to reach “up to” 7 million additional UK homes – staring with 5m by 2026 (i.e. those homes not currently served by Virgin Media itself, the sole ISP client on their network).

NOTE: Both VMO2 and nexfibre are parented by Telefónica and Liberty Global, but unlike Virgin, nexfibre’s network is open to wholesale.

Under the announcement, nexfibre planned to acquire Upp’s existing network assets, which reflects a full fibre infrastructure that covers around 175,000 premises in the East of England and includes roughly 4,000 customers. Just for context, nexfibre alone added this many premises to their UK coverage in Q2 2023 alone (here) and 250,800 premises in Q3.

Since the announcement, VMO2 is understood to have been busy carrying out integration work – this has included aligning systems, completing in-progress fibre build and offering Virgin Media’s services to Upp’s customers. The latter stage is where we find ourselves this week, with Virgin Media starting to notifying customers that they will be “withdrawing [Upp’s] services sometime this year.”

What’s going to happen?

Thankfully, some customers have shared details of this update with ISPreview. The new notification is frustratingly light on detail, but it notes that Virgin Media officially changed Upp’s T&C’s on 15th January 2024 to add a new clause (13.2) that states: “We may end our contract at any time without liability to you by giving you at least 30 days’ notice in writing if the Service provided to you by Upp is being withdrawn.”

The change to their T&Cs means that customers will be able to “cancel your services with Upp without any financial penalty by giving 30 days’ notice“. In other words, Upp’s customers can either choose to switch to a different ISP or wait to be moved over to Virgin Media’s service. But crucially, it remains unclear how this will impact the prices and broadband speeds that Upp’s customers currently take (we’ve asked VMO2 to clarify).

For example, Upp’s top package offered symmetric speeds of 900Mbps, which is something that Virgin Media’s network doesn’t yet offer (the fastest uploads are c.100Mbps). Not to mention that it was also a fair bit cheaper than the post-contract price of Virgin Media’s own gigabit plan. Similarly, Virgin has yet to clarify how they’ll handle the change in areas where the two networks are already overbuilt.

So for customers who plan to remain, Virgin Media said that they’re “not changing your broadband service or billing so you don’t need to contact us,” although they are optionally recommending that such customers create an account and setup a Direct Debit with Virgin Media now (the message includes a link for this), “so that when the time comes, the transition for your service will be as seamless as possible.”

The steps listed for setting up an account note that “Upp will arrange for a technician to update the broadband connection point inside your home ready for Virgin Media’s Hub, all at no extra cost,” and that Upp will then “change their broadband service to Virgin Media at a later date in 2024 area by area, and will let you know when it’s your turn.”

Sadly, this all sounds like customers who remain are going to have little option but to take Virgin Media’s existing packages and router, which as noted earlier, aren’t always superior to Upp’s offerings. As above, we have asked VMO2 if they can clarify a few of these points. Upp/Virgin have yet to announce a final date for when the service itself will be withdrawn.

UPDATE:

A quick update. Virgin Media has confirmed they will still be delivering services over Upp’s network once integration work is complete, and they’ve also clarified that customers will be able to “take a new service from Virgin Media that is equivalent to their current Upp service“. We did highlight the example of Upp’s 900Mbps upload speeds and lower pricing when asking about this, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out later in 2024 (i.e. new Virgin Media packages on the way with symmetric speeds?).

A VMO2 spokesperson said:

“Following Virgin Media O2’s acquisition of Upp and ongoing integration work, we are in the process of writing to Upp customers to inform them of a change to their terms and conditions and our plan to end Upp’s services this year, offering Virgin Media fibre services that will be equivalent on both speed and price.

While no services or billing arrangements will change at this time, and connectivity remains, Upp’s customers will be given the option to pre-order Virgin Media broadband services through a bespoke link contained in their direct communication. All customers will receive a free right to cancel due to the terms and conditions amendments being made.

We will be writing to Upp customers again later this year to provide further information on Virgin Media installation dates, if this option is selected, or notifying them that we will end their Upp service. We’re committed to supporting all Upp customers as this necessary simplification of products takes place and will clearly outline the options available so customers can make an informed choice that works best for them.”

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Mark-Jackson
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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Comments
42 Responses
  1. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

    Imagine the horror of customers who left Virgin’s terrible customer service for Upp only to be sucked back into Virgin a while later…

    Compounding the problem is that it’s quite likely that this will be the only superfast service available to them and even ADSL may no longer be available, so it could be Virgin or nothing.

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      Just to say. VMO2/nexfibre’s existing network does overbuild with some of Upp’s, but Upp also exists in many locations where Virgin’s service does not (there’s only a low overlap). So there won’t be that many ex-Virgin customers being sucked back from a tiny base of c.4,000, but yes, there will be a few.

    2. Avatar photo mike says:

      It could have been me. Upp weren’t far off my street when the VM/Nexfibre deal was announced. I’m with VM now and was looking forward to switching to Upp. Now I’m desperate for Cityfibre but their rollout in Norwich has stalled, and while Openreach has been planned for years they never seem to get any closer to my street.

    3. Avatar photo john says:

      Indeed, I was thinking similar. Upp had announced last year they were going to be building in my area which is currently a Virgin monopoly. I was glad to read there is nothing in the CityFibre takeover as they have been building here for about 11 months already so an escape from Virgin might be possible later this year!

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      This is the one thing that worries me, if Zzoomm got sold to Talk Talk or Vodafone.

    5. Avatar photo Badem says:

      Ad47UK given TalkTalks current concerns I don’t think they are (fiscally) in a position to be attempting to acquire anyone.

    6. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      @RaptorX: With a mere 4,000 customers despite a network covering 175,000 premises, the only direction Upp was going was likely to be downwards. Far better, therefore, to be part of VM’s new XGS-PON.

    7. Avatar photo RaptorX says:

      @Mark Jackson Thanks for the clarification.

      @Roger_Gooner says I guess a bad service is better than no service at all. What an awful choice.

  2. Avatar photo Dave says:

    I think Nexfibre are going after Zzoom 😀

    1. Avatar photo James says:

      Yeah I feel either CityFibre or Nexfibre will likely be going after these AltNets

  3. Avatar photo Mark Hankin says:

    UPP were busy in our village (South Creake, Norfolk) before Christmas installing fibre on behalf of Virgin Media. They dug trenches, pulled some cables and installed junction boxes on poles. There was no publicity about this, and Virgin Media themselves amazingly deny that any service is planned in our area, stating ‘I have investigated this matter with our network expansion compliance team and upon investigation the team has relayed that Virgin Media O2 or its contacting partners have not carried out any recent network expansion works in proximity to this address.

    ‘Further to this, I have asked our network expansion planning team if we have any upcoming plans to expand our current network to this address and unfortunately the team has relayed that at present, there are no plans to extend our current network to this property.’

    We haven’t seen any more work since Christmas. Can anyone explain what might be happening please?

    1. Avatar photo Alan Dooley says:

      I’m in exactly the same boat (in Norfolk). They were building in my street but never launched. I’m out of contract with BT and don’t want to renew because OpenReach missed 6 houses on our road and so I can’t get FTTP and OpenReach say they’ve a target of 2026 to resolve it! My hope was that the Upp build would reach me…

  4. Avatar photo mike says:

    If they’re just going to migrate customers to the vastly inferior cable network, what was the point of buying Upp? To remove a competitor? Because it doesn’t seem like it was for the infrastructure.

    1. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      The Upp network will become intergrated into VM’s XGS-PON.

    2. Avatar photo Snail says:

      Ex VM employee here: the programs used before I left recently got an option to select a symmetrical and non symmetrical connection type. I think what will happen is anyone on the UPP network will still be able to take symmetrical through the system offered, price will be interesting to hear about

    3. Avatar photo mike says:

      @Snail

      A symmetrical service on the old copper network? As far as I know, nowhere Upp was rolled out was FTTP. Certainly not in Norwich which is mostly copper from the ntl days.

    4. Avatar photo Snail says:

      @Mike – I thought UPP were FTTP only? It could well be also just a change for preparing XGS in the future with symmetrical but loads I heard this symmetrical option on the system wasn’t used, from what i saw in this article VM will still provide the same service via UPP network but just branded under VM?

  5. Avatar photo Adrian cullen says:

    All you lucky people with fibre, I’m with bt, total guaranteed speed of 3 mps, yes that’s right 3mbs,hows that for modern technology, if we’re lucky on a good day we might be able to get player running, think your selves lucky.

    1. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      You might be one of the 85% on Openreach’s network to get fibre by December 2026.

  6. Avatar photo Chris says:

    Well I’m dubious about them offering same package/same price, we won’t be signing anything yet that’s for sure, there’s 2 options for us here go with VM or cancel and go to light speed, ADSL connections aren’t a option anymore..

  7. Avatar photo George says:

    VMO2 have also been busy making a most Upp staff redundant right before Christmas, they didn’t mention that did they!

  8. Avatar photo David Evans says:

    Norfolk area seems to be a fibre free for all at the moment. UPP have built some areas around Scole and Diss but not out into the very rural areas now they have been taken over by Virgin. County Broadband promised lots of connections, now don’t appear to be able to give people any connection information and seem to have vanished from some areas. Cityfibre came in and overbuilt areas that County Broadband had built but not completed, BT have made a few FTTP connections in rural areas overbuilding others funded by Government money, Gigaclear are now building in areas that County Broadband started. None of these companies seem to have a plan to connect a ‘complete’ village, cherry picking the easy to reach properties and leaving the rest. B4RN seems the only company that had a plan to include all properties in a village post code area, but funding that was approved by Government in November 2021 to assist that build in five more villages, was frozen in January 2022, due to a new local goverment procurement exercise, and has still not been released. Thankfully a number of villages in Norfolk did take up a B4RN project before the funding freeze and now enjoy a 1,000Mbps symmetrical service, for others it is a post code lottery greatly affecting work and life in rural communities. There seems to be no local government strategy and overbuilding is rife, what on earth is going on?

    1. Avatar photo Mark says:

      I so agree. No one in overall control. BDUK unaware of commercial builds. Gov subsidised ISPs allowed to cherry pick eg CityFibre in Norfolk no rural coverage north of the A148.

    2. Avatar photo ChrisB says:

      This seems to be the case across most of North Norfolk. I live near Holt and Upp have been deploying fibre since September. Upp then sold out to VM but cabling work has continued. I have been pushing for more information but it’s almost impossible to obtain any solid information as to when the network will be going live…. Everything is so vague. Does anyone have anything that they can share?

      I also understand that Cityfibre have been awarded a large contract to cover the whole of North Norfolk, but when I contacted them for more information I was told that there are no plans to do anything (at this time I guess). Why are there no plans, why isn’t this information available to people and how do they expect people to subscribe to their services when communication is so bad.

  9. Avatar photo Lucy Harrison says:

    Unfortunately for me if I want too keep fttp I have to migrate to vm02 as no other provider is in my area until 2026 according to my research and multiple calls to alternative providers. I’m rather unhappy to say the least.

  10. Avatar photo Michael says:

    I’d rather go off the grid than go back to VM, quite literally the worst customer service of any company I’ve dealt with in my lifetime. I’m with Grain at the moment, service is okay, other than the odd lookup issue, but after changing my DNS it all seems good. Customer services seem great, only had to call them twice, once before going live and once after, both were a breeze.

  11. Avatar photo Hugo Solent says:

    Hi, upp customer here in the flatlands, cambs / norfolk border. Moved from Virgin to Upp, and it’s brilliant, fast, reliable, symmetric, cheap, ace customer service when needed. Genuinely horrified to be forced back to virgin at gunpoint. No other FTTP offerings. Data Engineer doing 100% homeworking. I’m literally out of a job without decent broadband.

    Worse : I have an email from Upp support stating that FTTP will not be available, it’l be back to co-ax from the little green cabinets.

    Not looking forward to going back to constant Virgin upselling. My favourite was that the number of items on my home network was not compatible with 100mbps and I *must* upgrade. Another was that I *must* upgrade to a service that had their TV service, and internet only was not available. Obviously I didn’t fall for either of those, but how many elderly or vulnerable people did? Disgraceful.

    1. Avatar photo mike says:

      Abusive partners always seem to find a way back in to your life

    2. Avatar photo Dan says:

      Word from someone who used to be involved with this, apparently they are ripping out the fibre from the ground in some areas due to some contract mumbo jumbo between VM and nexfibre, where nexfibre isn’t allowed to have fibre in the ground where VM already has cable, even the people involved thought it made no sense…

    3. Avatar photo Roger_Gooner says:

      @Dan: VM and nexfibre are owned by the same companies and nexfibre is effectively extending VM’s network by building near to VM’s (and VM is integrating nexfibre into its XGS-PON). So, any overlap is redundant and it makes sense to remove the unwanted cabling.

  12. Avatar photo Colin says:

    I am an UPP customer, and was disappointed when I heard that they had been taken over by VM. UPP was the fastest service I had had. I looked for other Symmetric services, but many didn’t cover my area. I don’t really want to be tied in with another huge service such as BT or VM.

    One that does cover some of East Anglia though is Lightspeed (.co.uk). They are an independent service and have some good deals running. I got 1GB for what I was paying for 500MB with UPP if worked out over a two year contract. They also seem to have good reviews on Trust Pilot.

    I have just signed up and am awaiting installation. They could be worth taking a look at. If you do sign up if you use the referral code they gave me “colinw9OIAQ” you will get two free months, and so will I; even if you don’t want to use the referral code, they might be worth taking a look at.

    1. Avatar photo Chris says:

      Light speed is an option for us, well its light speed or VM, I only hear bad things about VM

    2. Avatar photo Colin says:

      @Chris, I know what you mean, terrible reviews on Trust Pilot. I decided I would rather take a chance with Lightspeed as it seemed similar to how UPP are, good reviews, decent speeds, and fairly local, plus local phone contact. I really don’t want to be tied in to VM for 18 to 24 months.

  13. Avatar photo Kenny Tones says:

    Regarding the change in T&Cs meaning you can cancel your contract without penalty, is there a timeframe for this, e.g. next 30 days? Or can you cancel at any time now? I’m with UPP and now pondering Lightspeed but I’d want to get Lightspeed in and working before cancelling UPP (which in theory I’m in an 18 month contract with).

    1. Avatar photo Colin says:

      Hi Kenny

      I spoke with UPP and they were fine, there didn’t seem to be a rush, they said they need 30 days notice, but said better to get an installation date form another supplier before I cancelled, just so I wasn’t without service.

      I signed up with Lightspeed as mentioned above, and am waiting until I know that it is installed before cancelling as UPP had a problem getting my cable through the BT ducting from a Zen install (Zen another brilliant company that I was with for years, just too expensive). So I don’t want to cancel until I know I have no problems.

      But it didn’t seem like there was any immediate urgency, give UPP a ring if you want clarification.

    2. Avatar photo Colin says:

      @Kenny I believe that because they have changed the T&Cs, they have to give you the right to withdraw, so you shouldn’t really have a time limit if my understanding is correct.

    3. Avatar photo Kenny Tones says:

      Thanks Colin I’ll contact them and see what they say.

  14. Avatar photo Rob says:

    I am an UPP customer in Lincoln and its superb, installed by CITYFIBRE. I have had the letter but different companies being talked about here. Presume CITYFIBRE is part of the takeover? dreading going to virgin listening to the comments, looking at Which? but no one else can offer full fibre at 500 mbps. Hoe come virgin can have exclusive use of the infrastructure…. regulation change needed! BT also removed analogue phone so use Vonage internet phone service, again superb…. can i use that on virgin? Rediculous as a consumer i have no “choice”

    1. Avatar photo Toby White says:

      Cityfibre are just laying the cable. ISPs can then make use of the network.

  15. Avatar photo Jeffy Jeff says:

    Aaand just as I’m in a position to get FTTP (from UPP I thought) I find out about the VM acquisition. No more UPP installations in my area, and VM say unavailable.

    I’m sure they’ll say it’s all “for the benefit of customers” if I could only become one…

  16. Avatar photo Gartonender says:

    Living in Aylsham with terrible internet connection we now have UPP vans in the area doing some sort of cabling work. Anyone any ideas when fibre will arrive? Will it only be Virgin?

  17. Avatar photo BrokenCoffeCup says:

    Just had a call claiming it was from Virgin. Also claimed Upp were cutting it’s service on 1st of May.

    Is this true?

Comments are closed

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