Virgin completes its gigabit upgrade

As anticipated a month ago, Virgin Media O2 now claims to provide average speeds in excess of 1 gigabit per second over its entire fixed network.

For some reason VMO2 issued a press release teasing this milestone in November, which must have coincided with a quiet news day because we covered it anyway. The big day was promised before the end of the year and has come with weeks to spare, so credit where it’s due. The underlying significance of the milestone, however, is not so clear cut.

“Just two years ago we set out to spearhead the UK’s gigabit revolution and today we’ve delivered,” said Lutz Schüler, VMO2 CEO. “Our investment to bring gigabit broadband to every home on our network has catapulted the UK’s digital infrastructure forward by a decade and forced others to up their game.

“As the country’s largest gigabit provider by far, we’re the driving force behind widespread gigabit availability four years ahead of the Government’s target. Having reached this major milestone in just two years, we’re doubling down on our mission to upgrade the UK by continuing to innovate and invest in our network to support the technologies of tomorrow – there’s no slowing down at Virgin Media O2.”

Schüler is clearly one of those hyperbolic telco CEOs in the John Legere mould and even has the haircut to match. To what extent a network upgrade amounts to a ‘revolution’ is highly debatable, as is the assertion that the UK’s digital infrastructure has been catapulted forward by a decade, but you can’t blame a bloke for trying to make the most of his achievements.

“The scale of rollout within the timeframe is extremely impressive largely thanks to upgrading its cable network via DOCSIS 3.1,” said telecoms industry Analyst Paolo Pescatore. “In essence this overlay boosts capacity and download speeds rather than having to dig up roads and install new cables. Therefore, it requires an incremental cost providing plentiful benefits all round.

“However, Virgin Media clearly lags its rivals on fibre which is an area that remains a key battleground for all providers; now and more importantly for the future will be the foundation for the country’s digital infrastructure.”

This is consistent with what we said a month ago and further explains why VMO2 is keen to capitalise on this achievement while it can. Inevitably, as with any UK infrastructure development, a politician was quick to hang onto its coattails.

“Getting high speed broadband into everyone’s homes is a top priority and Virgin Media O2’s efforts mean we’re making quick progress in our mission to level up the UK with better connectivity,” said Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries. “We must ensure that rural areas are not left behind, which is why alongside industry’s roll out we’re investing up to £5 billion to make top-of-the-range speeds available in hard-to-reach communities.”

VMO2 says its network now offers average download speeds of 1,130Mbps, which is apparently 22 times the national average. While it would be good to put both figures to the test, this does represent a solid achievement. But gigabit contracts start at £62 per month, so time will tell whether the market is prepared to shell out for all this lovely bandwidth.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Ben 07/12/2021 @ 4:43 pm

    VM 1Gig package is same price as third 500Mbps package, and not much higher than BT’s 900mbps full (I’m currently paying £60).

    Quite a few typos on this article.

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