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Delays Allegedly Hit Virgin Media’s UK Full Fibre Broadband Upgrade

Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2024 (11:04 am) - Score 8,280
Virgin Media O2 Engineer Working Inside FTTP Cabinet

Several sources have indicated to ISPreview that broadband ISP Virgin Media’s (VMO2) Project Mustang programme, which is upgrading existing Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) network areas with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP / XGS-PON) technology, has allegedly been hit by delays – partly due to issues with billing and ordering systems.

At present around 14.3 million properties out of Virgin Media’s total 17 million “Homes Serviceable” are currently still covered via their older HFC network using DOCSIS 3.1 technology. On top of that, some premises are also being served by FTTP using the older Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG) approach to ensure compatibility (somewhere around c.2 million prems).

NOTE: Project Mustang is a separate project to nexfibre’s roll-out of FTTP to cover “up to” 7 million UK homes in areas NOT currently served by VM’s own network – starting with 5 million by 2026.

The operator’s existing HFC network is already capable of gigabit speeds, but VMO2 needed to go beyond this in order to stay competitive. The solution they chose, which officially began its deployment phase in early 2022 (here), was to upgrade all of their existing HFC areas – at a cost of c.£100 per home (i.e. using their existing ducts to avoid new trenching) – to support the latest 10Gbps XGS-PON powered FTTP technology by 2028 (aka – Project Mustang).

The physical network upgrade programme has, so far as we can tell, been making reasonable progress (i.e. they completed c.1 million premises in 2023 during the initial ramp-up). But Virgin Media has thus far declined to set a clear date for when the first products on this new network, which is initially being deployed alongside their existing HFC infrastructure (the withdrawal of HFC will come later), will become accessible to consumers.

The closest we’ve come to an official launch date occurred in April 2023 when Virgin’s Director of Fixed Infrastructure, Engineering and Delivery, Matt Tully, said (here) that the new network would be going live for customer sales “at some point later this year.” Sadly, VMO2 promptly removed Matt’s otherwise excellent video presentation, perhaps because he revealed a little too much information.

Matt Tully, VM’s Director of Fixed Infrastructure, Engineering and Delivery, said:

Later this year we’ll be going to that ready for sale stage, we’ll be doing trials all summer on this brownfield network and then, at some point later this year, this network will be going live and ready for sale. And then from that point on, every home we build will be fully active day-by-day as we grow this network.”

The catch here is that we’re now in March 2024 and there’s still no sign of any XGS-PON based products going live in Project Mustang areas. Meanwhile, Virgin Media has launched a new 2Gbps package and symmetric speed add-on (here), but this is currently only available to those in newly built nexfibre’s areas (c. 1 million premises passed) – the package options in Project Mustang areas, once live, are expected to mirror these.

Several of our sources within the operator have acknowledged that it’s taking longer than expected to put the new service live. The current expectation, we’re told, is that this might not happen until sometime in the second half of 2024 (we’ve had conflicting feedback on whether this means Q3 or Q4).

One of our sources indicated that the issue was down to the state of Virgin Media’s billing/ordering system, which is allegedly not yet ready to take orders for XGS-PON based products in HFC areas. Naturally, this will be a bit more complex than in nexfibre areas, which is because Virgin also has to manage a transition between the old and new networks at the same time.

Virgin will of course want to get the Project Mustang areas live as soon as they’re able, since they’ve so far spent a fair amount of money (we’d assume upwards of £100m) on an upgrade programme that isn’t yet able to deliver them any revenue. The operator declined to comment when we raised the issue of delays, but they did claim that Project Mustang is continuing to progress as planned, which is easy to say when – officially – a solid launch date has never been set.

We’re very much looking forward to the new upgrade going live, thanks to the significant performance improvements it seems set to bring.

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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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34 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Tempest3K says:

    Can’t say I’m surprised by this – they don’t even have online services working properly for XGS-PON areas with any changes/upgrades having to go via an agent! Seems like someone forgot the systems required to support the new rollout!

  2. Avatar photo john says:

    Strangely, Upp have recently appeared on the street works map all over town. Are VM using Upp to replace the existing HFC with fibre? I had thought they would be incorporated into Nexfibre.

  3. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Who would have thought internal VM systems and processes not ready and causing delay LOL

    1. Avatar photo Rich Branston says:

      Just checked and I still can’t update my contact phone on my VM account. It shows the new number in place of the old, but refresh the page afterwards and the old number returns!

      Then there’s the complete lack of IPv6 rollout.

  4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    Instead of trying to buy ALTNETS to stifle competition, perhaps they should invest more in their internal systems and processes.

    1. Avatar photo Alex A says:

      Upp had to be sold, and going by their customer numbers would’ve soon been bankrupt anyway…

    2. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

      They were previously trying to buy Trooli and Cityfibre and outside of Altnets, even TalkTalk. Just Bt and VM left would be bad news……

    3. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      what’s competitive about lots of tiny firms with no scale, all offering essentially identical services at similar prices, digging up the exact same streets and trying to capture the same customers?

    4. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      The normal person (i.e. NOT Pro BT or Pro VM), wants competition. Altnets might want to gobble a few of the others to be bigger. Wont get a chance with BT and VM who only want it to exclude competition so they can keep prices high as possible.

    5. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The acquisitions are about as relevant to this as my choice of cereal this morning.

      Most altnets expect and need to be acquired. See if Nexfibre provide decent wholesale.

    6. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      Multiple networks offering similar/identical products.

      Honestly, competition here is simply about asking what flavour you’d like your tap water to be.

      Sole reason for needing competition is critical infrastructure network resilience. That being said, it does nothing if all properties aren’t fully connected to all networks.

      Do we really need multiple satellite/mobile/FTTP broadband networks?

    7. Avatar photo john says:

      “what’s competitive about lots of tiny firms with no scale, all offering essentially identical services at similar prices”

      They’re not offering identical services but even if they were right now competition brings a reason to innovate and increase productivity. I.E. make things better and cheaper in order to win more custom. Monopolies encourage sloth and waste, which is why OR did nothing on FTTP until forced to by competitors. Yes ultimately they will all end up consolidating and we’ll have 3 or 4 national infrastructure providers but that is enough and more preferable to a monopoly we cannot escape.

  5. Avatar photo No Name says:

    I really hope RFOG areas will be first in line to order new services along with the first batch of converted HFC areas.

    Our area can’t do 100Mb up so we a worse off than HFC atm.

  6. Avatar photo Ryan says:

    I’ve had the pilar cabinet installed next to the HFC now a few years, they were so quick in upgrading the network round here in N.Ireland

  7. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    I can only conclude that the decision to offer symmetric service was a major factor. Don’t get that with asymmetric Openreach!

  8. Avatar photo anonymous says:

    and many of those Altnets have a BETTER product than BT and Virgin’s HFC network (symmetric) and usually better customer support.

    1. Avatar photo Tyler says:

      Lol… better customer service

    2. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Oh please say you aren’t laughing because Bad Telecom and Vermin Media offer better customer service???

  9. Avatar photo simon clark says:

    Great, a delay. What an absolute shower.
    Not surprised really. No company does what is says it does or promises anymore.

  10. Avatar photo Matthew Bates says:

    How is it possible to determine if an area is upgraded or not? I see ‘FTTP’ availability in my area (Bath) but I don’t what this means.

    1. Avatar photo Matthew Bates says:

      Just to be clear, ‘FTTP’ for Virgin Media, not OR or CityFibre (that’s another story). I spoke to VM sales and they didn’t really know.

  11. Avatar photo Phil says:

    Burnham on sea was built to the older Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG)….not sure its to ensure compatibility as it was new build while xg was being installed in bridgwater 7 miles down road. Crazy logic

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The developer was sold RFoG and planned the in-home installation, etc, accordingly.

      Annoying but that was why. The build outside the estate didn’t involve a home builder and wiring being built into homes.

      Hopefully there’s an XGSPON build for new homes now.

    2. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      I’ve just been looking at the Think Broadband coverage maps for Bridgwater and it’s showing VM as being available on the street where a mate lives and I’m pretty certain that it’s not, only Jurassic Fibre and Openreach FTTC are available as far as I know.

  12. Avatar photo Bob says:

    If they have a modern ERP system billing and support should not really be an issue

  13. Avatar photo jim says:

    Tbh i think from what i’ve just read from this article it’s another case of virgin leaving their existing customers in the lurch, they want to put up the prices but don’t seem to want to deliver a service which matches the prices customers are currently paying. It seems that there is no delay to the xgs-pon that are being fitted in the new builds by nextfiber, with the operative word being new customers as they seem to get the best deals instead of the customers that have been with virgin since the days of ntl and telewest. loyalty seems to be left of the training menu when dealing with retentions and i actually had to go to the extent of putting in a complaint just to get someone to phone me up for a better deal. Maybe i’m looking at it from a cynical view as things happen but looks like existing customers are going to be last in the xgs-pon upgrade race.

    1. Avatar photo XGS says:

      The XGSPON in new areas doesn’t have legacy cables services at the same address and uses a different order and billing workstream.

  14. Avatar photo GG says:

    They fibred up the new mini cab on my street and even added the hardware atop the OR post next to my house.
    Then …. nothing.
    Nothing to do with F+W putting a break on round here, nothing at all.

  15. Avatar photo Network Nemesis says:

    It hasn’t been called “Project Mustang” for a couple of years. It’s called “Fibre Up”

    1. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      I’ve never once heard it called that when it’s been discussed with me, it’s most often spoken to me by VM as just “Mustang”, which I think is a much better name than “Fibre Up”. Plus you can shorten the latter to FUP, which normally means something else :).

    2. Avatar photo Si says:

      Which is Odd as I’m currently surveying VM areas for Project Mustang. It’s very active and real.

  16. Avatar photo mike says:

    What are they going to do in areas where Upp have already built fibre where VM already have crappy old copper DOCSIS? Did they just buy them to kill it off?

    1. Avatar photo anonymous says:

      Well the cable companies combined under VM to one large company bar Wight Fibre on Isle of Wight.

      VM and BT don’t want competition so its in their interest to erase them when they can. BT are worried that symmetric FTTP for example will take away customers from very expensive leased lines and Virgin are worried about ALTNETS undercutting them as they milk residential customers.

  17. Avatar photo Bob says:

    BT are setting up a new Welsh HQ in Cardiff and moving all their business units into it. I total about 1000 people will be based there

    The new workspace and contact centre will become a hub for staff across the BT Group, including EE, BT Business and Openreach. The new Cardiff HQ is part of BT Group’s programme to modernise its workspaces and reduce its number of locations from more than 300, to around 30.

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