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Virgin Media pledges gigabit broadband without full-fibre

Cable TV operator is betting that improvements to the Docsis standard will enable it to offer gigabit broadband without full-fibre

Internet service provider (ISP) and cable TV operator Virgin Media has announced a plan to bring ultrafast 1Gbps broadband services within reach of 15 million homes that are already passed by its hybrid fibre-cable network in the UK by 2021, without a foot of new fibre being laid.

Virgin’s “Gigabit Britain” plan will see the operator roll out Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (Docsis) 3.1 technology – which has actually been available since 2013 in some markets – as an upgrade to its network.

The Docsis standard enables the addition of high-bandwidth data transfers to existing cable television systems, and by eliminating the need to build new full-fibre networks, Virgin believes it will be able to outpace competitive roll-outs by the likes of Openreach or CityFibre.

“This is a giant digital leap forward for the UK,” said Virgin Media CEO Lutz Schüler. “Virgin Media has been the unparalleled speed leader for many years. Very soon, for the first time ever, millions of people right across the country will be able to experience hyperfast and reliable gigabit internet connections, thanks to the latest technology and the power of our network.

“This upgrade plan will see gigabit speeds rolled out at an unrivalled pace right across the country, bringing our customers the future-proof connections of tomorrow.”

The roll-out will begin later in 2019 in Southampton, and should be complete within two years, said the Liberty Global-owned firm. A number of trial customers are already connected.

The upgrade comes in addition to Virgin Media’s full-fibre roll-out, undertaken through its Project Lightning programme, which has brought ultrafast broadband within reach of two million homes since its inception.

Read more about broadband

  • Wholesale price cuts of almost 40% will help Openreach’s CSP customers grow their full-fibre customer bases, and generate a better return on their investment.
  • Full-fibre broadband provider CityFibre is extending its network to more homes and businesses in its latest roll-out.
  • Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report examines key trends in the UK’s broadband and mobile market, and finds that access to faster broadband is expanding rapidly across all delivery mechanisms.

Outgoing Ofcom chief executive Sharon White said: “We welcome Virgin Media’s commitment to investing further in its network, providing gigabit speeds to millions more households. This shows that the race to roll out ultrafast speeds to people and businesses across the UK is really gathering pace.”

PP Foresight’s Paolo Pescatore added: “This is a sensible move as telcos’ margins are being squeezed. Therefore, they need to be much smarter with their network investments.

“Arguably, this move should have come sooner, but will bring about plentiful benefits to Virgin Media customers for potentially a few quid more. As well as faster data speeds, more reliable connections and capacity in the network are as important, without the need to dig up roads.”

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