Virgin Media will upgrade its entire UK network to full-fibre by 2028

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Virgin Media has committed to upgrading its entire UK broadband network to full-fibre by 2028.

The operator’s network currently predominantly uses Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) technology but also some Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) via Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG). The network is currently being upgraded to support the DOCSIS 3.1 standard which is due to complete by the end of this year and should handle a peak theoretical download speed of up to 10Gbps and uploads of around 1.5Gbps.

Looking to the future, Virgin Media has a choice between upgrading its network to the shiny new DOCSIS 4.0 that boosts upstream capacity to 6Gbps, or go full-fibre.

Last year, Mike Fries, CEO of Virgin Media owner Liberty Global, said:

“When we look at our networks, we’ve got a couple of ways to get there with DOCSIS 4.0, where we would fall right in line with the US operators, Charter and Comcast, both of whom would be pursuing a strategy like that.

And we could also use FTTP, CSPON, where we have, we think, the economics to support that kind of roadmap to 10G.”

DOCSIS 4.0 would not be a cheap or fast option relative to the upgrade from 3.0 to 3.1, but it would be more so than replacing the network with FTTP—at least initially.

Virgin Media expects its FTTP rollout will be one of the most cost-efficient fibre rollouts – costing ~£100 per premise it passes – compared to ~£60 for DOCSIS 4.0. However, the company believes FTTP will be more cost-efficient over the long-term as it eliminates the need to invest in future DOCSIS versions.

Virgin Media says 1.3 million homes currently have access to its full-fibre service. By 2028, the company expects 14.3 million homes will be covered. The company says FTTP is “capable of delivering symmetrical 10Gbps download and upload speeds, and beyond.”

BT has set a goal of covering 25 million premises with full-fibre by 2026, 10.7 million more than Virgin Media’s target and two years earlier. However, in the meantime, Virgin Media’s expanding DOCSIS 3.1 network will continue offering faster connectivity than most BT connections.

Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media O2, said: “Our mission is to upgrade the UK, and we are doing exactly that. This major new fibre upgrade programme will see us begin the next evolution of our network, building on the investment, firepower and leadership we already have and ensuring we’re fibre fit for the future.”

“Right now, we have the UK’s leading gigabit network, and this upgrade means we’ll be even stronger for the decades ahead, pursuing new opportunities and putting words into action.”

(Image Credit: Virgin Media)

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