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Virgin Media lays claim to largest FTTH roll-out in UK
Wednesday 27 April 2016 13:25:23 by Andrew Ferguson

The coverage of pure fibre (Fibre to the Home) may be about to accelerate significantly based on an announcement from Virgin Media, namely that at least a quarter of the four million premises that will be covered by Project Lightning will be connected using Fibre to the Home (FTTH/FTTP).

Project Lightning is aiming to expand the Virgin Media footprint to 17 million premises by 2019 and started last year and with the 250,000 new premises covered already we have seen the cable coverage figures rise from 48.5% to the current 49% and if 2016 sees the promised 500,000 premises delivered this will rise another 1.6%.

"Our £3bn investment to bring ultrafast connectivity to more parts of the UK is not just about better broadband, it’s about future-proofing the country’s network infrastructure with the best and most modern technology.

While some companies talk a good game, Virgin Media is putting its money where its mouth is and laying fibre to the premise alongside our superior HFC network - delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds.

In just over one year we’ve laid enough new cable to stretch all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats, reaching a quarter of a million more homes and businesses – and there’s much more to come.

Tom Mockridge, CEO of Virgin Media

For the consumer other than actually having a piece of fibre optic cable direct to the home there is no difference in the products compared to the existing Virgin Media range and exactly the same modems and TV set-top boxes are used, as the service is delivered as RFOG (Radio Frequency Over Glass) which then adds a small converter to extract the signal from the passive optical network and present it in a coax format to the consumer hardware. As there is no difference we have as yet no added any Virgin Media premises to the FTTH coverage figures on our trackers, we have asked Virgin Media if they are happy to share this subset of premises so that the we can both track the changing Virgin Media coverage like we already do but also add the subset to the FTTH figures.

Given the ultrafast battle that is now on the front burner after a decade of simmering away on a low heat it will be interesting to see how BT and others react. BT appears more receptive to the idea of rolling out higher volumes of FTTH than it has been for some years and if there is a proven volume of demand (rather than the usual 1% of suspects buying for bragging rights) for speeds beyond what G.fast can offer we might see a shift from BT too.

If Virgin Media delivers 1 million premises on FTTH, and BT and others continue on the same path as they are now then UK will have FTTH coverage of around 5 to 7% in 2019. If we ignore technology labels and concentrate on just speed, it means even if BT does not roll-out any G.fast we are looking at ultrafast broadband (100 Mbps, 200 Mbps or 300 Mbps definition) availability of 60 to 65% in three years time. If the BT Group deploys G.fast in volume it could be significantly higher maybe around the 80% mark.

Comments

Posted by doowles 7 months ago
I can get Virgin in my house but went with BT as I like their router and sports channels. I also had a bad experience with Virgin when they tried to charge me after leaving a premises.

If they offered gigabit Fibre to the Home then I would definitely sign up again. Until they do that though, I'll stick with BT.

BT have no real world plans for fibre to the home, their next shift will be to G.fast technology and they wont want to put anything in place to put that at risk.
Posted by joe_pineapples 7 months ago
If only they'd first get on top of the congestion issues with their current higher speed packages. I guess this wouldn't be as headline grabbing though.
Posted by TheEulerID 7 months ago
It makes perfect sense to put fibre into completely new areas whilst using co-ax hybrid to extend existing infrastructure.

I wonder if OR will respond? I have a suspicion they will want to claim to have more FTTP than any other provider. We have seen the trials using "connector-based" fibre in Swindon, and perhaps they've choose to do a bit more of that where the infrastructure is suitable.
Posted by DrMikeHuntHurtz 7 months ago
@doowles

Does your BT cabinet have Fiber-on-Demand enabled?
Posted by comnut 7 months ago
joe_pineapples: have you actually talked with them about it???
Posted by comnut 7 months ago
an example..
https://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Speed/Peak-time-congestion-in-Reading/td-p/3082582
Posted by rtho782 7 months ago
If BT do roll out G.Fast, they will start by rolling it out to the 60-65% already covered by Virgin, making no significant impact on the ultrafast coverage :)
Posted by godsell4 7 months ago
@rtho782 you are probably correct that BTO will install G.Fast in the same city and urban locations also covered by VM first. In those locations BTO should get no further money from UK.gov or BDUK at all.
Posted by FlappySocks 7 months ago
My guess is, BT have no intention of going for G.Fast exclusively. Where there is ducting, they will go fibre.
Posted by jrawle 7 months ago
It seems a real pity when much of the cable infrastructure was installed in the '90s that they installed coax not fibre, given it was all new anyway with pavements dug up, etc.

On the other hand, even if Virgin offer FTTH, are they still going to offer a really poor upload speed? That's why I stick with BT.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) 7 months ago
Virgin already has some areas with the RFOG up and running and its exact same product set.
Posted by CarlThomas 7 months ago
I think that's extraordinarily optimistic FlappySocks but would be delighted to be proven wrong.
Posted by FlappySocks 7 months ago
@CarlThomas Well there was this story: http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2016/02/bt-trial-exchange-based-fttp-broadband-with-500-homes-in-swindon.html
and then you have to question why you would choose G.Fast in areas where ducts/poles exist. And then you have Virgin, snapping at your heals, with speeds G.Fast can't match.
Posted by CarlThomas 7 months ago
Indeed you could ask why you'd choose G.fast in areas where ducts and poles exist then you look at all the areas where shiny new ducts exist and a cabinet was built, then another cabinet was built, such as this one.
Posted by CarlThomas 7 months ago
Openreach have no interest in a speed competition with Virgin Media. They want to spend the bare minimum delivering the bare minimum their customers require. Little business case for them to do anything else.

VM's HFC network can happily blow G.fast away. They know this, but they still announced a G.fast-heavy rollout with FTTP mostly in business parks and commercial streets.
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