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4 million extra homes to be passed by Virgin Media network
Friday 13 February 2015 09:04:33 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media has gone £500m better than the BT commercial investment which was declared as £2.5 billion to roll-out FTTC to around two thirds of the UK. Virgin Media today has just made the Open Market Reviews and fledgling campaigns to get superfast coverage higher UK cities a lot more complicated.

The announcement of some £3bn of spending to pass some four million premises over a five year period will take Virgin Media footprint to around two thirds of UK households and businesses. The key phrase to this roll-out seems to be 'always faster' than BT, which is true if we ignore the limited GEA-FTTP availability, hence the 'widely available' footnote in Virgin Media TV adverts.

At some £750 per property passed the cost is not dissimilar to the rolling out FTTH/P in urban areas and we have chased Virgin Media to try and confirm whether this is expansion of the DOCSIS cable network which we believe it is, or whether there may be a mixture of technologies. If this was a pure FTTH/P announcement we are sure it would have been the headline. DOCSIS 3.1 in theory when deployed should allow up to 10 Gbps type speeds across the fibre/coax hybrid network and hopefully upload speeds to finally beat the xDSL brigade.

"Millions of homes and businesses will soon be able to benefit for the first time from broadband speeds at least twice as fast as those available from the other major providers. Consumers and business owners who want to make the switch to better broadband speeds now have an alternative; you can call on Virgin Media to ‘Cable My Street’.

In virtually all of the areas we have identified for expansion, BT is the only option available right now. Its ageing copper telephony wires are not capable of the ultrafast connectivity that Virgin Media delivers. Soon we will offer unbeatable services to even more homes and businesses across the country.

Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media Chief Executive Officer

Some 6,000 new jobs including 1,000 apprenticeships are expected to be created over the five year period of the roll-out, reflecting the hard work involved in a roll-out of this scale. It is clear that Virgin Media still sees BT as the main threat in this five year period, but with BT announcing G.Fast roll-out there is going to be some serious headline chasing and price competition.

We already are expecting announcements of speed upgrades from Virgin Media that will see the current 152 Mbps service going faster probably in the next 12 months and are a little surprised that this was not in todays announcement.

How much influence you will have is not clear as Virgin Media claims to have identified many of the expansion areas already, but you can register at to try and increase your chances.

Update 9:45am We asked Virgin Media about the prospects for FTTH/P and it has not been ruled out, with the statement saying 'we may include Fibre-To-The-Premises (FTTP) over the course of the programme'. On the copper versus cable war of words, Virgin Media highlighted that it has tested 1.5 Gbps across its existing DOCSIS 3.0 network, and DOCSIS 3.1 once released will allow them to push well beyond that, i.e. the Virgin Media fastest widely available broadband headline will remain for a long time.

Analysis of cable broadband coverage by Virgin Media at the end of 2014
Click image for full size version.

Update 12:15pm We have added a chart showing the availability of cable broadband across the various parts of the UK and is based on our own analysis of the data from our speed test over many years. Overall we believe the UK has 48.3% coverage, with England at 50.9%, Scotland at 38.8%, Wales 28.4% and 26.6% in Northern Ireland, the larger chart provides a breakdown by local authority.

Update Saturday 14th We have crunched some numbers and based on current Virgin Media coverage expanding their footprint to postcodes within 20m of existing coverage would add 0.7 million homes passed. This shows the density of the largely urban areas where Virgin Media operates.


Posted by rtho782 about 1 year ago
And yet there are still VM not spots in major cities with VM everywhere else (as with Bristol where I am) that VM refuse to infill. So many missing streets...
Posted by Bob_s2 about 1 year ago
I would assume VM may actually now start infilling and complete coverage of towns that never got completed. VM have made lots of noise in the past about infilling but have never in general carried it out. Give VM have the customer services and engineering teams in place in these areas it would be illogical not to infill now

Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago
I suspect (with a few exceptions) this won't massively complicate OMR, as this is infill in urban areas and, as such, overwhelmingly areas which would have been covered BT's commercial FTTC roll-out anyway.
It does, of course, present a challenge to BT and independent FTTH/FTTB looking for viable areas.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@TheEulerID if you followed what Ed Vaizey has been doing there was fresh moves to get state-aid rules changed to allow more urban/city use.
Posted by Bob_s2 about 1 year ago
VM have most of the cities and larger towns already covered clearly there are gaps in coverage in these areas. 4 Million homes though is a lot off home and they have to be looking at the larger rural towns
Posted by keith969 about 1 year ago
The downside of all this is that if Virgin increasingly pick up all pthe profitable city/large town business, BT will be left with the unprofitable rural ADSL... and will not invest in improving it.
Posted by WWWombat about 1 year ago
BDUK figures show that there were around 9m premises that get superfast coverage from BT's commercial coverage but nothing from VM's coverage. (Around 2.7m the other way around)

Then around 4.2m will get superfast coverage from BT through BDUK phase 1, where intervention areas are already fixed.

You'd have to guess that VM will be targeting their 4m within that 9m first, perhaps some dribble into the 4.2m

But I don't see them having much impact on the SEP programme. I guess that's why they've stepped on with the 'ultrafast' talk.
Posted by jroadley about 1 year ago
Have registered interest, but can't see them coming out to North Norfolk.
Fingers crossed.
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Broadband Watchers.
All BT/Openreach has to do is cover the Cabs FTTC/ P near were VM are trading like they did with Cable and Wireless ( Mercury ) When they placed phone boxes next to high revenue BT Kiosks. Where is Cable and Wieless Know.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@blackmamba There is already a massive overlap between Openreach FTTC and Virgin cable, this is about VM narrowing that gap and ensuring that 'fastest' can appear in advertising.
Posted by Kebabselector about 1 year ago
@keith969 - your assuming everyone in cities wants all of VM's bolt on goods. Me I'm only interested in Broadband and VM aren't competitive with just that outside of a bundle.
Posted by themanstan about 1 year ago
Clearly VM are using BTs ~66% as the commercially viable footprint.
The cost perspective is interesting, at £750 per property passed if BT had approximately the same roll-out cost for FTTH, then to get to 66% BT would need to spend £12.75B...maybe a £1B less for economies of scale...
Posted by Blackmamba about 1 year ago
Hi Andrews Staff
At last the BD UK project has made the market more conpetitive in all areas plus when the figure 10 meg down starts to bite in the (outer area customers) will not be obsessed with these high speeds advertised you can see this where custermers are looking for value for money in lower prices.
Posted by adslmax about 1 year ago
Stay away from evil virgin media. more congestion on the virgin media network and overpriced too.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

I did say with a few exceptions. Places like Shoreditch with lots of OE lines. Also, bear in mind OMR is put up or shut up. You can't block state aid on the basis of a possibility. There have to be credible plans, financing and so on.

Whether VM would try and put off the whole idea is another thing, but that's a potentially dangerous game.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
I see nothing in any OMR or intervention area that prevents an operator deciding to service that area if they think they can compete with a state-subsidised operator
Posted by BlackAle about 1 year ago
@adslmax It depends where you are, I see little to no congestion and pay a very competitive price for my broadband only service.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Of course they can, but then they are competing with a subsidised operator.

The issues is the other way around. An operator can declare they have credible plans to develop in an area and thereby block any state aid. But doing so also blocks them from applying for state aid in that area and can cause problems later if the development doesn't go through.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
It blocks them for 3 years
Posted by otester about 1 year ago
Other than gap filling, if they want to avoid being labelled SMP, they won't expand much more.
Posted by NilSatisOptimum about 1 year ago
@adlsmax, My experience too, I almost wet my pants when I first heard this yesterday, thankfully this was clarified, as urban areas. Rural organisation's the grass is not always greener.
Posted by zyborg47 about 1 year ago
It is not going to be any good for me, as it will not come here, so stuck with BT FTTC system or back to my wireless connection maybe once they get sorted out.
Posted by zyborg47 about 1 year ago
@ADSLMAX, are you happy with any provider? As you seem to change providers hell of a lot.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Indeed it does block them for three years. However, three years is a long time. It means any such area will not have been included in the planning for any state aided project, loss of potential synergies and money spent elsewhere. In all, the consequences can be very serious. Hence the need for credible plans.
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Yes It is a long time. but credible is a flexible term when used by BT, hence the contraction of their commercial rollout once they became the only BDUK supplier
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

The credibility criterion is applied by the BDUK projects. I'm not aware of any contraction in BT's declared commercial roll-out plans.

Anyway, the point is if EU assistance rules are changed to include poorly served parts of cities, will VM commit to those areas in an OMR? Also, are VM subtly trying to dissuade the Govt from apply for extensions into such areas?
Posted by gerarda about 1 year ago
Loads of places all over the country where the commercial roll out was contracted.

I think VM are just taking advantage of BT's lack of investment in their infrastructure (capex has not been greater than depreciation for years) and their lack of faith in new technology to steal a march on them.
Posted by TheEulerID about 1 year ago

Could you provide a source for the information about the contraction in the commercial roll-out. (Bear in mind the BDUK targets for each area overall include any commercial coverage from BT, VM or another other NGA operator).
Posted by fastman about 1 year ago
gerada - hence the contraction of their commercial rollout once they became the only BDUK supplier -- an example please -- (there may have been some cabs pulled due to cost prohibitive or high cost / power spine -- and these would have been indentifed as to why they were being removed -- each cab carries an audit trail on it !!!!
Posted by kijoma about 1 year ago
it is good to see genuine commercial investment , i am sure BT will be unhappy though. But the EU and .Gov will no doubt find a way to dismiss Virgin in the same way as other commercial providers. Two words "open access" . If they acknowledge the VM build out then they will have to do the same for others too?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@kijoma Eh?

The existing 48.3% of VM coverage is acknowledged, so not sure why you think the expansion won't be. Of course VM might refuse to supply details of their plans as part of the open market reviews, but that is a VM choice.

Posted by michaels_perry about 1 year ago
And yet again the rural user is ignored. Rural businesses have an uphill struggle to get even a reasonable speed and lose many customers because the 'website is too slow'.
This is one area where 'commercial pressures' don't help communities that are not urban in nature. Farmers want to diversify so would like to have small businesses using otherwise redundant premises - but the broadband is too slow.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) about 1 year ago
@michaels_perry If a farm as a business is looking to refurbish buildings then the cost of a leased line with appropriate speed guarantees to suit the needs of tenants would have to be factored into the refurb costs.

The size of the sum Virgin Media is spending actually illustrates why the money Government is spending is only having a limited impact.
Posted by GMAN99 about 1 year ago
@michaels_perry re: "Website is too slow"

Are you saying your broadband is too slow to host a business website? If so (apologies if I misunderstood) that's probably a mistake anyway you shouldn't look to host on your connection, buy a cheap VPS from £15 or so a month and do the job proper
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