Although it’s often talked about as fibre-optic broadband, Virgin Media actually uses a combination of fibre-optic and coaxial cables to deliver super-fast broadband to homes and businesses.
The fibre-optic cables carry huge amounts of data run from a regional data centre to a hub or street cabinet, from which high quality coaxial cables go to several hundred subscribers’ homes. These cables can carry up to 1.5Gigabits, although Virgin’s current top speed is 120Mbps, although this is running alongside up to 50Mbps of live TV, and Virgin’s TiVo digital TV recorders also have a dedicated 10Mbps modem built-in, independent of any other broadband.
The system combines the huge data capacity of optical fibres over long distances, with the low cost of supplying coax-based cable modems to customers’ homes using cables laid over the past 30 years.
The network passes 48 per cent of the UK’s 26million homes, mainly in urban areas. Since 2010, Virgin has run two trials using telephone poles to carry new fibre-optic cables to rural areas, and in 2010 it confirmed it could reach more than 60 per cent of the UK’s homes using telephone poles and BT’s underground ducts.
Unfortunately, BT is fighting suggestions that it should open its holes in the ground to other users, while rural expansion is being held back by problems like landowners charging steeply to drop telegraph poles in their fields.
Virgin also offers an ADSL broadband package over the old copper phone network for customers who aren’t on the Virgin cable network but really want to be with Virgin.
What to look for:
- Am I in a Virgin cable area?
- What’s the top speed Virgin can offer me?
- Do I want TV and phone as well?