VMO2 commercially launches XGS PON service

VMO2 gigabit van

Virgin Media O2 has begun selling broadband services via its new, 10 Gbps-capable XGS PON network.

The UK cableco began a commercial trial of the technology with select customers last November.

“These trials proved successful so now we are taking the next step forward in our network evolution and starting to sell services powered by the latest fibre technology, known as XGS-PON, much more widely,” wrote VMO2’s chief technology officer, Jeanie York, in a blog post on Thursday.

Until recently, VMO2 customer were served entirely by its hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) infrastructure. VMO2 upgraded it to DOCSIS 3.1, enabling it to be quick out the blocks in offering gigabit broadband services, but compared to the latest fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technologies like XGS PON – which supports symmetric 10 Gbps downlink and uplink speeds – DOCSIS has limitations when it comes to upload speed.

This wasn’t always an issue, but upstream data as a proportion of overall network traffic is increasing as customers make greater use of cloud services, user-generated content and video calling. While the latest HFC tech, DOCSIS 4.0, offers a significant improvement in upload speed, it is still slower compared to the downlink.

This influenced VMO2’s decision almost two years ago to upgrade its HFC network to full fibre, underpinned by XGS PON. It aims to complete the upgrade in 2028.

In tandem with that, nexfibre, a joint venture owned by VMO2 parents Liberty Global and Telefónica – as well as InfraVia Capital Partners – is rolling out a wholesale FTTP network that aims to pass 5 million premises not currently served by VMO2 with XGS-PON by 2026. It has an option to extend its reach by a further 2 million premises, and VMO2 will be the anchor customer.

“Our network can already deliver ultrafast 1.1-Gbps speeds and beyond, meaning that it’s fast enough to handle everything that customers want to do right now and in the near future,” York said on Thursday. “However, with customers using more and more data each year – with total data use on our network increasing by more than 10 percent last year – demand is only going in one direction.”

“XGS-PON and fibre connections will provide customers with even more bandwidth as the technology enables symmetrical upload and download speeds,” she continued. “This means that customers will have the ability to upload as quickly as they download, at speeds of up to 10 Gbps. With so many breakthroughs happening in the technology space right now, from the metaverse and generative AI to mixed reality applications and immersive gaming, this connectivity will enable future new technologies and applications to flourish.”

XGS PON will also help VMO2 keep pace with rivals like Vodafone, which has been trialling XGS PON with altnet CityFibre.

Initially, XGS PON won’t be available to customers living within VMO2’s legacy network footprint, York said. Rather it will be offered in locations in which it has recently deployed fibre – or has announced plans to – and in areas covered by nexfibre. Pricing doesn’t seem to have been announced either.

“With network innovation and investment unlocking faster and ever-more reliable services for customers, we’re entering a golden era for fixed connectivity and planning for the decades ahead,” said York. “Today is a key moment in that journey.”


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