Virgin Media Business - Leased Line Provider Profile

Virgin Media Business supplies some of the circuits that underpin our leased line services. We also work with BT's infrastructure subsidary - Openreach, plus BT Wholesale, TalkTalk Business, SSE Telecom, Colt, KCOM and Vodafone, comparing wholesale quotes to find the right deal for each individual location.

Virgin is one of our more important suppliers, on account of the size of its network and due to its general lack of dependence on BT infrastructure.

Background info on Virgin Media Business

Virgin Media owns and operates the UK's second largest fibre-optic cable network, second only to Openreach's network. Most of Virgin Media focuses on serving consumers, but there's a division known as Virgin Media Business that's focused on serving businesses and ISPs such as ourselves.

Many firms are unaware that leased line providers such as ourselves can deliver services using Virgin Media and BT circuits. They mistakenly assuming they need to go to the retail divisions of Virgin and BT to use these firms networks.

Virgin Media Business Leased Line Availability (plus Network Footprint)

There's a huge difference between its consumer broadband coverage area and its business leased line coverage area. Leased lines are more costly than broadband connections, so Virgin Media Business is willing to provide leased lines in many places where its broadband is unavailable.

To deliver this leased line connectivity it sometimes physically extends its own network. Alternatively, it may sometimes lease circuits from Openreach. By combining these too methods, it's able to supply leased lines to most business sites in the UK.

According to OFCOM figures [PIMR and BCMR Draft Statement 2019, Table 5.14], around 41% of UK postcode sectors (excluding Hull) have 65% of their large business sites and mobile base stations within 50m of a network belonging to someone other than BT. Those 41% of Postcode Sectors contain 45% of large business sites and mobile base stations, and such sites constituted 52% of customer ends connected in 2017.

The vast bulk of this area is BT/VirginMedia duopoly territory - i.e. where there are only two physical networks in the ground from which ISPs and wholesale telecoms providers can choose. The 'BT + one other network' areas covered 35% of postcode sectors (caveats as above). These contain 39% of large business sites and mobile base stations, and account for 33% of customer ends connected in 2017. This 'one other network' is almost always Virgin Media.

Virgin Media Corporate History

Virgin Media was formed in 2006 when UK cable franchise aggregators NTL and Telewest merged, then rebranded following the acquisition of Mobile Virtual Network Operator Virgin Mobile UK. The rebrand of NTL:Telewest Business occurred later in 2010.

The firm is strongly associated with entrepreneur Richard Branson, even though he doesn't run the firm and its owner is now Liberty Global.

The pre-Virgin-Media branded times were brutal. Mergers & Acquisitions galore, Bankruptcy (NTL), Debt-for-Equity swaps (Telewest), the hell of trying to integrate lots of different networks and billing systems, and the difficulties of competing against ultra-competent pay TV firm Sky.

This was followed by an explosion in competition that belated resulted from local loop unbundling, with Sky, TalkTalk and others entering the broadband market.

Once BT's infrastructure division Openreach rolled out FTTC - with the help of BBC-licence-payer subsidies - Virgin faced a raft of 'fibre broadband' competitors that weren't as fast, but which were sufficiently fast for many consumers.

More recently, in a few niche areas, Virgin Media has stopped being the only ISP that deliver genuine fibre broadband. Its competitors include BT's Openreach (connectivity to new-build homes), Gigaclear (rural communities, primarily), CommunityFibre (high-density social housing), Sky and TalkTalk (York), among others.

It continues to upgrade its network so it can offer mass-market broadband speeds faster than those offered widely by BT, with DOCSIS 3.1 likely to keep it ahead of BT, outside of FTTP areas, for a few more years.

Virgin Media's consumer broadband service is only provided directly, whereas the leased line circuits are available both directly from Virgin and indirectly through ISPs such as ourselves. The Telegraph has suggested that Virgin Media's owner, Liberty Media, is considering allowing such wholesale arrangements to be extended to the consumer side of the business. With rivals snapping at its 'fibre' heals - and offering to wholesale that connectivity to ISPs - such a switch makes sense.

Virgin Media Business's Future

We believe this supplier of ours has a bright future, despite the competitive threats it faces as a result of 5G, rival fibre network builds and consumers generally being unwillingness to pay extra for much faster speeds.

5G broadband may hit Virgin Media's consumer business, as some households switch from using its fibre broadband service to using 5G instead. But the business division will probably benefit from 5G. The chances of firms swapping their leased lines for 5G connections are small because 5G signals struggle to penetrate office server rooms and 5G connections are metered - making 5G a ruinously expensive substitute for leased lines.

5G will create a lot of demand for mobile network backhaul - potential new business for Virgin Media Business. Faster mobile broadband speeds will indirectly benefit leased line providers, as 100mb leased lines will be increasingly perceived as being slow. Expect 1Gbps and 10Gbps connections to become the norm.

Virgin lost many potential low-bandwidth leased line orders to rival ISPs offering EFM and EoFTTC (via BT Openreach's network). Those technologies only offer up to 35Mbps or 20Mbps, and often less than that, so an upward shift in the speeds demanded will benefit Virgin whilst hurting its competitors, primarily TalkTalk and BT.

Most alternative fibre networks are too small for Virgin Media to worry about. Any rivals that attempt to build large fibre networks may find out the hard way why building networks left NTL bankrupt and Telewest conducting a debt-for-equity swap. Regulators attempts to help encourage rival providers to roll out fibre broadband using Openreach's network of ducts and poles has yet to make much of a difference.

Is Going Direct The Cheapest Way To Get a Virgin Media Leased Line Circuit?

Not necessarily. We work with Virgin Media Business, buying circuits from it at wholesale prices. These allow us to provide leased lines to our customers, using Virgin's fibre network and our own.

We also work with many of Virgin Media's competitors, including Openreach, BT Wholesale, TalkTalk, Vodafone, KCOM and SSE Telecom, comparing wholesale quotes on a site-by-site basis to find the right deal for each location.

Sometimes a Virgin Media circuit will be the best option. Sometimes, there will be another option that we think is better.

We're happy to reflect your preferences, using or avoiding particular wholesale suppliers, subject to network availability. 

To find out the options at your location and request pricing, use the tool at the top of this page or call us on 020 7847 4510.

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