Virgin Media O2 UK lays the foundation for faster download speeds

Broadband ISP Virgin Media (VMO2) appears to be laying the groundwork for faster download speeds and latency (ping) times, which comes after a growing number of the provider’s customers began reporting the activation of the first DOCSIS 3.1 channels for upstream. on their HUBs.

Currently, Virgin Media has already deployed the latest DOCSIS 3.1 technology downstream of their mixed network. Hybrid coaxial fiber (HFCs) and Fiber to the premises (FTTP over RFoG), which has long allowed them to launch gigabit speed plans. But upstream performance has yet to benefit from this improvement, and so far has been stuck on the older DOCSIS 3.0 standard.

REMARK: D3.1 uses enhancements such as orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), which can encode data using multiple carrier frequencies and increases the amount of radio spectrum up to 200 MHz. This also supports other enhancements, such as Distributed Access Architecture / Remote Phy (R-PHY) – here and here.

However, between 2020 and 2021, the operator conducted a number of 2.2 Gbps speed tests (here, here and here), but only one of them enabled DOCSIS 3.1 on its upstream channels and was thus able to produce a download speed of 214Mbps (the current best is only about 55 Mbps). But since then the trail has cooled and we patiently await any sign that VMO2 is preparing to add D3.1 to its upstream connections.

The good news is that, since late July, an increasing number of our readers – those who are also Virgin Media’s broadband customers – are reporting (here) the activation of both an additional DOCSIS 3.0 channel and a additional upstream DOCSIS 3.1 channel. of their connections. Reports came in from across the UK and from people with different plans. We have since seen similar reports on VMO2’s own forum.

The new D3.1 upstream channel is quite small and only seems to operate QAM8 (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation), which is a common method of combining multiple amplitude modulation signals into a single channel for increased bandwidth (used in everything from landline to wireless networks). But we suspect the channel will actually perform much better than that, or maybe the routers are signaling it incorrectly.

Another benefit of deploying D3.1 upstream is that customers would benefit from faster latency times, which will be of particular interest to anyone who enjoys playing fast-paced online multiplayer games. Indeed, this is an area where Virgin Media has tended to lag a bit, so any improvements are likely to be welcomed.

A Virgin Media spokesperson said:

“We have no changes to announce, but we are constantly improving and optimizing our network to provide all of our customers with faster and more reliable services.”

In our view, Virgin Media is clearly laying the groundwork for faster upstream performance, but there’s currently no clear indication of how long people might have to wait before actually kicking off the boost. It may take some time to fully roll out the change to their network. So it could be late 2022 or, more likely, 2023 before we see any real product changes.

Customers will also only be able to take advantage of it if they have one of Virgin Media’s two DOCSIS 3.1-capable routers, the CENTER 4.0 and CENTER 5.0. Older HUBs and SuperHubs can only support the DOCSIS 3.0 standard, although many users have now upgraded to the latest kit.

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