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Is 150meg from Virgin going to revolutionise broadband in 2012?
Tuesday 24 March 2009 14:22:13 by John Hunt

Virgin Media have announced that their cable network is capable of offering speeds of 200meg to broadband customers however there isn't a business case for products of even 100meg or 150meg at the moment. This comes in response to BT's announcement yesterday about the rollout of it's fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) based network (similar to Virgin's existing fibre-coax hybrid cable network) which will offer speeds of 40meg initially to 500,000 premises, with a potential to rise to 60meg. Virgin offer 50meg now and their network covers around half of homes in the UK, but not all are able to get 50meg services at the moment (rollout is expected to be completed in the summer 2009).

There also comes good news for those in search of a faster upload speed. BT are at the moment suggesting a 15meg upstream on their 40meg fibre product, however Virgin are looking to take this a step further.

"If BT were to meet the time frame they have suggested - of finishing by 2012 - I would see us as having much, much faster upstream speed, running at a minimum of 100Mbps downstream and possibly more. You can see a real opportunity there."

Neil Berkett, (CEO) Virgin Media

So does this mean that everyone will be riding a broadband revolution by 2012? Perhaps not. Although there may be a headline speed of 150meg available, not everyone will want to pay the high cost that such a service is likely to attract, and only those on the Virgin network will be able to get it. It could also be seen as 'too fast' as it will break the network equilibrium that exists between access and core networks in service providers.

Traditionally 'core networks' of telecoms and Internet services providers have run at many times that of the access network. Before broadband, the core was perhaps around 150 or 1500 times faster than the access network, with a 10Mbps or 100Mbps connection to servers that run websites and e-mail services compared with 56Kbps for the user on a modem.

However, the ever increasing speeds being made available to the end user over broadband haven't been replicated in the core, and faster connections like 10Gbps (only 66 times faster than Virgin's aim of 150Mbps) are still expensive and rare, with most web servers still connecting at 100Mbps or 1Gbps. This will move the bottleneck away from the 'local loop' of the current broadband access network and in towards the expensive core. One aid to this problem is content. At the moment most content on the Internet is mainly web pages with text and images which doesn't use a huge amount of bandwidth to access. Even video sites such as YouTube or BBC iPlayer will not benefit hugely from an increase in access speeds. Users will probably notice very little difference when simply browsing the Internet on a 5meg connection or a 50meg connection.

Where the extra bandwidth does come in to use is for multiple users and watching high-definition video. Most video on the Internet isn't yet available in high definition and even when it is, existing broadband connections are capable of streaming the content (see our videos for some HD examples). So although you could potentially watch 10 high-definition television channels over the Internet at once, this is an unrealistic use, and the higher speeds may go unused until some new novel application becomes available. This is perhaps exacerbated by the current television platforms where many users subscribe to Virgin or Sky television packages which are provided via a set top box. This is a more efficient distribution platform and also removes the expensive usage charges for doing so over the Internet with some providers. So what will we use 150meg of bandwidth for? The headline speed may not be so useful, but the incremental increase of the lower speed products may be of more use, particularly when fibre to the cabinet reaches those in more rural areas who are still on lower speed products.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Great stuff, get some fat pipes going and then see what happens, we cannot begin to imagine the benefits high speed access will give to the people. Virgin need not worry, as long as they build the infrastructure it will come into its own very quickly, and people will pay when a service can be delivered. What they object to at the moment is paying for an inferior product that causes them a lot of grief. Fibre will put paid to that and confidence will grow.
Posted by JohnUK over 8 years ago
This sounds like some great utopian fantasy land, I wish I could live there, are there any unicorns riding on a flying pig around? VM can barely cope with the possibility of Nationwide 50mbit 150mbit is a pipe dream to even roadmap.

Posted by browney over 8 years ago
Great news. Just need a hell of alot of capacity
Posted by njalondon over 8 years ago
The devil's in the detail as always. /Will traffic management be applied and will Virgin dramatically increase backhaul capacity? If they do implement this BT will have to respond either by investing directly in FTTH or more likely by a PR offensive telling us what we have is enough. I've a gut feeling the genie is coming out of the bottle, and BT will realise like alot of countries in Europe already have, forget VDSL and move directly to a fibre access network.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
Hear hear njalondon, fibre is the end game. Hope BT don't waste more cash on PR mumbojumbo...
Posted by sarge205 over 8 years ago
50? 150? what a dream
I would like 5Mbps from my Bt connection
instead of the normal 2Mbps I get
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
cyberdoyle - it will cost VM to build the infrastructure. What do you mean 'fibre is end game'?
Posted by Spectre_01 over 8 years ago
Wonder if they even have the backhaul to support real spead increases not just sync speeds with their exchange that bottleneck as soon as it hits their backhaul...
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@Cyberdoyle:Read that last paragraph again. You clearly missed it on the first pass.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
..oops, hit return too quick. What we need is investment in the core and raising the bar at the bottom end. 50Mb and above are unneccessary luxury. Telcos should not be encouraged to 'roll them out'. Let them appear as/when/if the demand is there.

Concentrate on bolstering what we currently have instead of running after pointless castles in the sky.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
You need everything to be upgraded though, and the technologies to support things, like 100Gbps aren't ready yet- they are still draft. Many web servers are still connected at 100Mbps, some at 10Mbps! What use is a 150meg connection if the web server is still running at 10meg..
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
What use is a 150meg connection with a crippling FUP and high pings? For that matter, what use is the current 50meg connection for that when they stop it standing on the 20meg service...
Posted by chefbyte over 8 years ago
I would just like to get more than 800Ks in the evenings first before this is rolled out
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
The eNdGAme is fibre to the home. A broadband connection to every home or business in the land, which supplies as much or as little as the customer is prepared to pay for, just like water and electricity. Patching up an obsolete copper network is not the answer. Virgin is leading the way and others will follow. It is no good waiting until the people revolt, was it good queen Bess who said she had a bath once a year whether she needed it or not?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
VM leading the way? How many homes have they added to their coverage area in the last year?
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
@chefbyte:'800Ks'? What's that supposed to mean? Bits or bytes? What type of connection?
Posted by ceedee over 8 years ago
Neil's willy-waving again!
VM's backhaul can't cope with the existing connection speeds, let alone the 50Mb rollout.
At least it sounds like he's realised that users aren't satisfied with the appalling upload speeds.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
VM's backhaul is fine ceedee, bandwidth issues are all on local network not backhaul.
Posted by ElBobbo over 8 years ago
VM uses DOCSIS 3.0; it would be utterly stupid of them to have congestion locally. It's backhaul that costs and so it's backhaul that VM is being cheap with.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
No ElBobbo most VM customers are still on DOCSIS 1, and DOCSIS 3 isn't immune from congestion especially when throwing down 75% of the max bandwidth of the bonded group to a single customer.

In any even this is just a willy wave after BT announced their first exchanges to get FTTN, nothing more.

Backhaul doesn't cost VM much at all, they have a quite extensive fibre network as one would expect from a cable company. It's the cost of a 10GbE card either side and a wavelength on a fibre.
Posted by mishminx over 8 years ago
Perhaps Virgin should focus more on the here and now and less on day dreams. If there service was that good, then they wouldn't need such attention grabbing headline figures to begin with.

Virgin is the digital equivalent of flashing your boobs for cheap and easy attention. Any fool can get their .... out :o) A'hem! XD
Posted by sloman over 8 years ago
150mb for 30mins then they will STM you for 7hrs!
Posted by ceedee over 8 years ago
@Dixinormous - If the cause of the congestion is at the local network level, will the move to DOCSIS3 (for the higher volume XL and XXL users) really 'free-up' enough DOCSIS1 bandwidth for L (and ex-S) users?
If just one XXL user can cause DOCSIS3 congestion, what's the point?
Posted by chrishoops over 8 years ago
Erm how about first providing your existing customers with the service they bought AS ADVERTISED?

I agree - 150mb for 0.5s then throttled to 60kbps for the rest of your life.
Posted by Joe007 over 8 years ago
The beauty of DOCSIS 3.0 is that Cable MSOs can leverage existing CAPEX. DOCSIS 3.0 is backward compatible with DOCSIS 2.0/1.1/1.0. So legacy modems works fine with DOCSIS 3.0 CMTSes. Also the new IPV6 of DOCSIS 3.0 supports a much larger address space than IPv4. This expansion provides flexibility in allocating addresses and routing traffic.
With DOCSIS 3.0 there is no need to spend billions investing in fiber to every home and business.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Joe? They're not using that though, they've set up a seperate network. And as Dixi notes, they have a massive amount of local congestion which they have consistantly failed to rectify.
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
"Virgin offer 50meg now and their network covers around half of homes in the UK"

They cover around half the homes in the UK? even if that were true (I'm not so sure) that leaves a LOT of homes with no coverage. Instead of Virgin ploughing money into faster and faster services that only a niche market want at the moment and no-one really wants to pay extra for anyway why don't they get their network to every home in the UK and offer 20Meg for starters.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I read this much of the news story title "Is 150meg from Virgin......"

I then fell of my chair pointing at the screen laughing so hard i was almost in tears.
Posted by Shempz over 8 years ago pathetic tel exchange was struggling to give me 700kbps the other day...its just gone back up to 1.5mbps today...woooo-hooo!!!
Posted by peba over 8 years ago
This sort of thing is a load of old marketing rubbish. What's the point of a 150mbps line if you can only download 15gb a month, and are throttled most of the day? I would rather take a solid, reliable 8mbps line without restrictions any day.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
this is an article well worth reading by David Brunnen, 600 characters are too short but an excerpt:
... a massive design compromise forced by the inadequacies of an ancient and increasingly irrelevant technology and a desire to extract as much profit before admitting to the need for any apple-cart-upsetting new investment.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
cont. Banks got into a similar mess by continuing to stretch their money extraction from diminishing real assets – over-valuing the intrinsic value of the property base in much the same way as Telco’s would not want to admit that the copper in the ground is increasingly unfit for purpose. To update ancient Greek advice; beware banks (or Telco’s) promising innovation.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
If Brunnen is so convinced of the benefits and the case for it, where is he laying fibre, cyberdoyle?

He also offers no convincing arguments beyond "if you bring it, magic will happen!". Mesh networks are far more suited to the sort of local infrastructure than he is talking about, which is dependent on local exchanges and backhaul.

And it's not connections which hold back home working, it's employers trust of people - very few are the jobs which require massive bandwidth.
Posted by jontom07 over 8 years ago
LOL Virgin can't even give me 0.1mbs on my 10meg connection. Most of the time I cannot even run this sites broadband test because Virgin is sooo utterly rubbish and slow.

22/03/09 09:25 705.87 Kbps
21/03/09 23:25 333.89 Kbps
21/03/09 23:21 148.17 Kbps
21/03/09 00:22 247.64 Kbps
12/03/09 18:35 3069.04 Kbps
05/03/09 19:31 1580.91 Kbps
04/03/09 19:29 360.74 Kbps
03/03/09 22:56 100.10 Kbps
03/03/09 22:41 72.48 Kbp
Posted by clive4 over 8 years ago
Well, I'm not complaining. I'm paying for 1Mb and getting 5.5 today, down from 8Mb last week. Sir Richard claimed the credit at first but I learned from BT that they have upgraded to ADSL2+ at the exchange. Mind you, I did sign up for 2 but was given a free downgrade.
Posted by big_bubbaloola over 8 years ago

I'm kinda in the same boat. Although i'm on ADSL not cable, i signed upto their upto 8Mb package and got screwed on the traffic throttling (under 500kbps most of the day). Phoned, complained, told the best i could get was 2mb anyway, got downgraded to their 2mb adsl1 package for £14pm, and have consistantly got anything from 1.8 upto nearly 3 all day everyday.

Now if they shift me over to adsl2+ and I start getting screwed on speeds, it'll be time to pay up some more and move to a better ISP. I think i've had a good deal for the last 1.5 years so wouldn't mind paying more now.
Posted by michaels_perry over 8 years ago
Fine, if you're on cable! If you're on copper, like most people in the UK, we still won't get anything better. And some of us are still trying to get 2 Mbps, let alone 8 or more!
Posted by richardgoldsmith over 8 years ago
I used to be on Virgin, and like many who have commented here, I'm not on cable and never likely to be. I live half a mile from the exchange and continually had very unreliable speeds of under half mbs & often less, probably because of traffice throttling - even though Virgin said it should be 6 meg. I changed to Sky Max and now get 7 meg ALL the time and its half the price of Virgin. How will Virgin cope with traffic on 150 meg broadband?
Posted by XANTIA-1975 over 8 years ago
Lets face it virgin is a joke. If both VM and BT build their next gen networks and slowly add users there will be no need for AU policy. I remember early days of cable broadband it spent more time down than up that was because they put to many people on the net at once causing the network to crash so gradually add people on and do away with throttling which VM does to everyone regardless on how much they download
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Doesn't AU stop a few people using all the bandwidth?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Doesn't AU stop a few people using all the bandwidth?"

You would think so, but in Virgins case it seems to affect more than just a few people due to the time frames they have in place when they lower your speed. You dont have to be a heavy user either, in some areas the speed is so shocking you do not even get a connection which runs at a quarter of what it should.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
People in my street at times when throttling is not in effect tend to get close to the maximum speed they are paying for, a few streets just walking distance from me seem to have a huge bottleneck and people dont even get 5Mb on the 10Mb service at any time. Virgin cable is a right old mish mash, in some areas it performs great and as it should even with AUP's and throttles, in other areas its slow 24/7
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
When the issue is core bandwidth, Somerset, yes. But VM's issue is entirely different - VM do not have enough capacity at the equivalent of exchange level, not the core network.

Areas with low subscription rates are great. Areas with high ones, you see severe dropoffs.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
I dont even think its just capacity which is the issue Dawn, as i said people in my street tend to get near to the max stated rates where as a 5 minute walk away they are lucky to get half the speed. I imagine due to the short distance ultimately they all connect to the same part of the core network, I honestly believe issues start to occur when the street cabinets have more than a certain amount of connections, why it happens is another matter but either way VM is a lottery as to whether you will get good or poor speed.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
A 150Mb service on VM for some people would be superb for speed and value (especially if VM didnt cap or limit it) for others though even just a street away from people that get great performance it could be a ridiculous slow service both in down and up rate terms and ping time.
Posted by Oddball over 8 years ago
Interestingly once you reach a certain speed things like P2P don't stay saturating the bandwidth. First off not everybody can continue filling hard drives with hundreds of gigs of data. There is not enough time in the world to watch/listen/play it etc anyhow. The other thing is because it comes down faster you end up with more idle time between downloads.

I find that even on seeding torrents etc the bandwidth is not saturated 100% for 100% of the time.

Once people start getting faster connections I can see a drop off in usage. The only thing I can see rising is the streaming of video.
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