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Virgin Media 100Mbps Rollout Hits 10m Homes

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Virgin Media is ahead of schedule for its 100Mbps rollout, which now reaches up to ten million homes

Virgin Media continues to dominate the FTTP (fibre to the premise) approach in the UK after it revealed that it is ahead of schedule for its 100Mbps superfast broadband rollout, which can now be used by impressive 10 million homes.

This is because it has added four new areas for the superfast 100Mbps service, in Bromley, Dundee, Norton Hawkfield (North East Somerset) and Staverton (Gloucestershire).

100Mbps Rollout

It was back in December 2010 when Virgin Media first began offering its customers the chance to enjoy 100Mbps superfast broadband, after a long period of preparation for the speed increase. Virgin Media told TechWEEK Europe at the time that it had received 10,000 registrations of interest within the first day of announcing the 100Mbps service.

While there is no word on the actual number of Virgin Media customers currently using the 100Mbps service, the ISP says that growing take up and use of connected devices (i.e. mobile phones etc) is causing an explosion in the volume of online data, with Virgin Media carrying twice as much as two years ago.

Indeed, Virgin Media says that during peak periods internet traffic on its next generation network exceeds over three quarters of a terabit per second (0.75Tbps).

Virgin Media had previously committed to offering 100Mbps to half of the UK by the middle of 2012.

Now it has confirmed that the 100Mbps rollout is ahead of schedule, and is now due to be completed by the spring and not the summer as it had originally stated. Just as well, as the Olympic games is threatening to overwhelm mobile broadband capacity.

Superfast Takeup?

“Soon half the country will be able to get superfast 100Mb broadband from us. Reaching today’s milestone puts us ahead of schedule as we help propel the UK up the global broadband rankings,” said Jon James, executive director of broadband at Virgin Media. “Broadband is coming of age as more people give up on slow DSL in favour of superfast fibre optic speeds.”

There was also good news for existing Virgin Media customers, as those on its current 10Mbps, 20Mbps, 30Mbps and 50Mbps packages will see their speeds at least doubled. Meanwhile 100Mbps customers will get 120Mbps from this summer.

However not such good news for customers is a price increase. Other ISPs such as BT, Talk Talk and O2 have also changed their broadband prices recently.

The average Virgin Media bill should increase on average by £2.68 per month, Virgin Media told TechWEEK Europe.

“As part of our on-going review of services, we’re making some changes to our cable pricing from April and we’re writing to those customers affected now to explain what’s happening,” a Virgin Media spokesperson said. “On average, customers will see an increase of around £2.68 per month. However as part of our review, we’ve also managed to provide some customer savings and frozen prices such as our phone line rental.”

FTTP Leader

There is little doubt that Virgin Media is currently dominating FTTP in the UK.

Main rival BT is currently seeking to expand its small FTTP presence in the UK with initiatives such as extending its fibre trial to apartment blocks and flats, where FTTP can be deployed more easily. It has also mooted a FTTP on demand service, but this would only be for those lucky people that already have fibre to the street cabinet (FTTC) in their area, and will likely involve a fee payable by the customer.

BT is spending up to £2.5 billion to deploy fibre connections to roughly two thirds of the UK by the end of 2014.

Unlike Virgin Media, BT’s fibre network has to be open for use by rival ISPs and a recent Ofcom proposal should see the price that BT charges its rivals for access to its network reduced.

BT eventually aims for 25 percent of its fibre coverage to be FTTP-enabled.