Rumour Mill – UK ISP Virgin Media Business Prep 500Mbps Broadband

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A number of sources have indicated to us that UK cable operator Virgin Media, specifically their Virgin Media Business division, could be preparing to launch a new small biz focused 500Mbps (35Mbps upload) “VOOM Fibre” broadband package during the first few months of 2019. But residential users may have to wait.

Regular readers will know that there have been whispers of a future 500Mbps or similar tier for awhile (today’s top business tier is 350Mbps, with upload speeds that range from 7Mbps to 20Mbps), although until recently this was little more than casual speculation based on what some of Liberty Global’s other divisions had been doing and a few related hints.

However we’ve recently received a number of stronger indications from known sources, which all point to the potential launch of a new VOOM 500 business tier this year. In the past few years it’s become normal for Virgin Media to introduce their fastest tiers to small business customers first, although it usually then takes around a year for this to officially filter down to residential consumers.

Our current expectation is that any new tier will still use Virgin Media’s existing EuroDOCSIS 3.0 based cable platform, rather than their future Gigabit capable DOCSIS 3.1 network. Virgin has so far not run any open customer trials of their DOCSIS 3.1 network and thus it seems unlikely to arrive for awhile, which we assume is because they’d like to ensure that every corner of their network is ready before flicking the switch. The Project Lightning expansion may also still be taking precedence.

Meanwhile we strongly suspect that VMB’s customers will be hoping to see something better than the operator’s existing Hitron router. Officially VMB aren’t giving anything away and a spokesperson merely told that, “right now, we’ve nothing new to announce.” Take all this with a pinch of salt until confirmed.

The Government may be keen to press forward with their aspiration to achieve nationwide coverage of “full fibre” (FTTP) broadband by 2033, although equally it would be a travesty if politicians overlooked the future Gigabit capability of Virgin Media’s HFC network in all this.

Today Virgin are still the main source of “ultrafast” 100Mbps+ or 300Mbps+ speeds – covering over half of all UK premises – and they’ll almost certainly retain that position for a fair few years yet, at least in terms of downstream performance. A 500Mbps tier would certainly be a useful reminder of the positive impact they can have, even if most people have no real need for such speeds (much like 350Mbps today).

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