fibre optic cable and ports image

A new trial conducted by broadband ISP Virgin Media UK (Liberty Global) has harnessed a prototype of Infinera XR Optics technology in its existing network, which they claim could potentially deliver multi-gigabit speeds to customers by boosting symmetric transfer rates up to 400Gbps in a single fibre.

At present the best consumer speeds that customers can expect on Virgin Media’s EuroDOCSIS 3.0 based Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) and Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network is over 600Mbps, although 1Gbps+ speeds are possible in areas that have been upgraded to their latest DOCSIS 3.1 platform (due to cover their entire network by the end of 2021).

However, back in 2019 the operator did achieve end-user speeds of 8Gbps+ (8465Mbps) in the large Cambridgeshire village of Papworth (here), which made use of point-to-point style Ethernet Passive Optical Network (EPON) technology via FTTP. But last year’s 2.2Gbps (214Mbps upload) trial in the Berkshire (England) market town of Thatcham is probably more reflective of their next consumer speed boost (here).

By comparison the latest trial, which took place in Reading (Berkshire), seems to be more about improving data capacity to fuel Virgin Media’s future Passive Optical Network (PON), rather than delivering speeds of 400Gbps (Gigabits per second) directly to individual end-users – not even the future DOCSIS 4.0 standard supports that.

Crucially they also say that the new equipment upgrade (i.e. the optical transceivers at the end of a fibre) “could deliver … 400Gbps symmetrical services,” which is not quite the same thing as saying the trial actually delivered 400Gbps. As such we’ve gone back to Virgin Media in the hope of clarifying what transfer rate was actually achieved during the trial.

NOTE: Optical transceivers control where the information is sent and at what speed, thus determining how fast data can be sent from one point to another.

In the trial, the traditional network transceivers were replaced with Infinera XR Optics technology, which split a single fibre optic cable into many connections, all taking a share of the huge capacity. This means a single fibre could be used to provide multi-gigabit speeds to many customers at the same time.

The transceivers can also be remotely upgraded and configured, which Virgin Media said “allows the network operator to make changes quickly and easily, paving the way for simple upgrades to consumer services in future.”

Jeanie York, VM’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, said:

“Our next-generation network already offers gigabit connectivity to more than 7 million homes, but with data use and demand for hyperfast speeds surging, we’re continually investing in our network to prepare for whatever the future brings.

Innovations like this ensure our customers continue to benefit from the UK’s fastest widely available speeds, pave the way for future network upgrades and help support the rollout of multi-gigabit broadband and mobile services.”

The ability to “seamlessly” apply this sort of upgrade to an existing fibre network should help Virgin Media to keep pace with future capacity demands, which never stop growing and are also essential to help support the launch of ever-faster consumer broadband packages in the future.

UPDATE 11:22am

Virgin Media has informed us that the trial itself delivered a speed of 200Gbps, but they obviously expect it to go beyond that in the future.

Contact Us
We’re here to help. If you have any questions or queries, please call us on 01344 752222 or use the form below
Captcha Code

* Required Fields

Where to Find Us

Our Partners Include

virgin airbus
gas international gas international

Request a Callback