Up to 16,000 more ultrafast broadband premises for County Durham
More broadband options are always a better thing and the news that Virgin Media is to roll-out to another 16,000 premises in County Durham will be welcome news for those set to benefit. The headline message from the press release is about the ultrafast broadband service that Virgin Media is rolling out being 20 times faster than the local average when compared to County Durham and while we would have agreed with a 300 Mbps service being 20 times the 15 Mbps average reported by Ofcom in its Connected Nations Report 2016 it is important to note that the average we are recording for County Durham has gone from 18.2 Mbps in Q3/2016 to 21.3 Mbps in Q3/2016 and if everyone who can get faster services was to upgrade an average in the 45 to 48 Mbps is possible. The expansion in Durham will include premises in Chester-le-Street, Consett and Stanley with the first locations completed in early 2018 and the target of 16,000 set to complete by the end of 2019.
While it makes no difference to the broadband speeds available to order the roll-out will be a mixture of Hybrid Fibre Coax (FTTN) and the full fibre (FTTP) that Virgin Media is using in some areas.
16,000 premises represents 6.6% of the premises in County Durham giving the county around 7.2% coverage at ultrafast speeds if no overlap with existing networks, so for those wishing for much wider ultrafast broadband coverage in counties like this we need a lot more announcements like this. The averages in press releases are going to be interesting once the new average peak time speeds in broadband advertising rules kick in, since competing providers are going to be watching closely to ensure that older figures are not used which show them in a poorer light than their own current figures and as peak time speeds can vary the public might need to get used to variations in adverts with speeds of 154 Mbps one quarter and 156 Mbps in another. Virgin Media already publishes the results from its own SamKnows testing population and these show the 50 Mbps service does not need to change (they could if they want advertise 52 Mbps under new rules – the Ofcom 2016 report suggests a range of 38.2 to 45.4 Mbps at peak times on the 50 Mbps service) and the change is minimal for the other products e.g. up to 100 Mbps would be 99 Mbps, up to 200 Mbps shifting to 188 Mbps and the up to 300 Mbps service to 290 Mbps based on the October 2017 figures.
You may think this question of timing is academic but when you have the Ofcom 2016 report saying 38.2 Mbps to 45.4 Mbps for the 50 Mbps service and 169 to 177.2 Mbps on the up to 200 Mbps you can quickly see the scope for complaints, even when an identical testing methodology is in use.