Why Virgin Media?
The network Virgin Media are building is a brand new fibre to the home (FTTH) network. It does not re-use any other suppliers’ equipment such as ageing copper cable or exchange equipment. The services you can subscribe to range from broadband-only packages (select from 50 Mbit/s, 100Mbit/s, 200 Mbit/s or 300Mbit/s) to bundles including phone and TV packages. The maximum speed that FTTC can offer, and that is only if you live very close to the cabinet, is 80Mbit/s. In the future, when even 300Mbit/s is not enough (as data usage increases by 50% every 18 months), there is no barrier to Virgin Media simply increasing the speed of the service they offer as optical fibre can operate at tens, if not hundreds, of Gbit/s without any degradation in performance.
Virgin Media are investing £3 billion in the UK’s internet infrastructure with the expectation that it will expand and be repeated across the UK.
Who can get it?
Twelve villages have been selected for the initial two phases and form the basis of a virtual town. The following villages are in the current plan:
- Chilbolton (Phase 1)
- Wherwell (Phase 1)
- Kings Somborne (Phase 1)
- Goodworth Clatford (Phase 1)
- Stockbridge (Phase 1)
- Michelmersh (Phase 1)
- Timsbury (Phase 1)
- Houghton (Phase 2)
- West Tytherley (Phase 2)
- Broughton (Phase 2)
- Winterslow (Phase 2)
- Firsdown (Phase 2)
The design of the network was completed by Virgin Media in December 2016 and it is no longer possible to add more villages to the current build. It is also important to note that villages do not have 100% coverage; there will be properties which are nominally in the parish but are not part of the current build. They could, however, be included in a later phase.
Villages outside the current virtual town, who demonstrate significant demand, will be considered for subsequent phases, with the obvious caveat of Phases 1 and 2 being successful.
What is the cost?
Building a fibre network in a rural area is up to six times more expensive than in an urban environment. Virgin Media are investing significantly more money than their normal business case because they are extremely keen for this project to succeed. The initial proposal included a community contribution which varied depending on the difficulty of the build in your village plus the council tax band of your property. This would have meant some people paying up to £3,000. On the 12th May 2017 this tiered scheme was scrapped in favour of a one-off flat-rate Network Installation fee of £300 per property (a reduction of 90% for some). In January 2019 this installation fee was also scrapped. Anyone who has already paid this fee will be refunded in full. There is a £20 activation fee and a standard install fee of approximately £40. You will only pay these fees once the build in your area is complete and you are able to receive the service.
The figure below illustrates the breakdown of costs and what this may mean for you (Please note – the Network installation fee no longer applies).
The total cost consists of 3 elements; all of which are payable once the network is built and you are able to take the service:
- Activation fee (one-off payment when you take the service)
- Standard Install fee (one-off payment when you take the service)
- Service (payable monthly once you are live)
So, if you would like a broadband-only package from Virgin Media, but would also like to replace your current landline for a non-Virgin VoIP (i.e. internet phone) service, your cost build up would be as follows:
£20 activation fee + £40 (typical) standard install fee + £37.25 per month for broadband + £10 per month for VoIP telephone.
Once you have paid the Network Installation fee, activation and standard install fees your payments per month would be £47.25 for a 200Mbit/s service that is considerably faster and more robust than the current competition.
All the costs in the diagram above are non-discounted (and correct as of the 30/03/17), but at the time of choosing a service there will always be discounts on offer.
If you are a landlord you would need to pay the Network Installation fee for your property, but the standard install, activation fee and service contract would be the responsibility of your tenant.
How does the cost of the service compare with other providers?
It is difficult to do a like-for-like comparison, as very few of the top internet providers supply FTTH. The table below gives a price comparison with 3 main internet providers who supply FTTC using their highest speed service. Comparisons have been made across four packages ranging from broadband-only to the deluxe version of broadband, phone and TV but also including movie and sports channels.
All broadband packages are unlimited download and all information below is accurate as of the 3rd April 2017.
If an entry is blank in the table it is because that particular service/aspect is not offered. For example, neither BT nor Sky offer a broadband-only package.
Many providers will automatically tie you in for a period of 12 to 24 months when taking up a service; they do not always offer a 30 day rolling contract. Having said that, the best offers do come with a tie in period.
It is worth noting that the maximum speeds shown in the table for Sky, BT and TalkTalk, which are FTTC, assume that you live within 200m of the cabinet. Any further than this and your speed will be affected as in the graph below.
When can I have it?
Building has already commenced in Chilbolton and will follow through to Stockbridge, Wherwell, Goodworth Clatford, Michelmersh and Timsbury. Phase 2 villages (Kings Somborne, Houghton, Broughton, West Tytherley, Winterslow and Firsdown) will follow. It is anticipated that all villages in Phase 1 will be online by the end of 2018.