Saturday, 3 March 2012

Is Virgin Available in my Area?

Is there a way that I can see whether Virgin Media broadband is available in my area?

Virgin Media follow slightly different rules on availability to other providers.

Most broadband availability relies on the operator's presence at a local exchange. Once they're enabled at an exchange, the provider supplies services to the vast majority of properties in the area.

However, Virgin Media cable runs on a different network to standard phone lines and, as a result, even when the provider appears to be enabled in an area they won't be available everywhere.

In other words, without a specific postcode and preferably a phone number checking coverage is tricky.

Our Virgin Media product checker can show availability based on those two property-specific criteria.

For a general overview of areas try the SamKnows Virgin Media exchange list but do bear in mind what we've noted above.

In all, if checking Virgin Media availability is, for example, a prerequisite of a house move then narrowing down the house options and then using a postcode checker to test for coverage is the only way to get a definitive answer.

Many people have been stumped by the fact that their neighbours can receive Virgin Media cable broadband but they can't get connected.

In this kind of scenario, it's likely that back when the cable infrastructure was laid in the 90's, the house in question was unfortunately excluded.

In addition, we've never heard from anyone who, finding that this was the case, persuaded Virgin Media to lay an extra cable to their home.

Although Virgin Media can surely do with business from previously un-hooked-up customers the actual cost of digging up the pavement to give new houses access (ignoring any reason why this was not done in the first place) would far exceed any revenue Virgin Media would be able to generate from those new customers.

It is no secret that Virgin Media inherited a tumbledown, half-hearted cable network from NTL and Telewest and that their budget for extending this network is minuscule.

Once the physical cables are available to a property, however, availability problems aren't over.

Virgin Media may not be expanding their network but they are upgrading it to offer faster speeds.

The 100Mb service is currently available to around twenty million households, significantly fewer than other services.

However, expansion is continuing apace. As you can see in Virgin Media's 100Mb area schedule (warning, pdf) there's a huge number of areas already enabled and more on the way.

Virgin are also upgrading their service's upload speed on the 50Mb service, from 1.5Mb to 5Mb.

The schedule for that upgrade is available here.

It's also worth noting that after the service has been upgraded to up to the new 5Mb upload speeds a new fair use policy will also apply.

Under that policy those faster upload speeds will be capped during peak times.

Once users have uploaded more than 6000MB of data during that period the service will be slowed by 65% for five hours.

This policy replaces the old completely unlimited policy which covered all usage on XXL, up to 50Mb, broadband deal.

Finally, note that Virgin Media are no longer the only show in town when it comes to fibre broadband.

BT's fibre network is rolling out up to 40Mb and up to 100Mb services throughout the UK and, often, reaching households that aren't able to access Virgin Media cable currently.

BT's fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) 100Mb service is available in much fewer area's than Virgin Media's equivalent service. Instead, the provider has focused on its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) network which only offers speeds of up to 40Mb.

However, BT does offer up to 15Mb upload speeds, in contrast to Virgin Media's up to 10Mb in areas where the upload speed upgrade has been enabled.

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