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 virginmedia.com/cablemystreet 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.
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.