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Virgin Media

Last Edit: 09/09/19

Virgin Media are one of the UK's largest telecommunications companies, offering: broadband, tv, phone, and mobile services. Virgin Media grew out of a merger of NTL and Telewest, and are unusual in that they own their own broadband network; unlike most other providers who use BT Wholesale's network. As stated, Virgin Media began 'life' as a company that was created from a merger of NTL and Telewest. NTL (originally named International CableTel) and Telewest (originally named Croydon Cable) were both founded in the 1990s, and were amongst the UK's first cable television providers. Their coverage, was, however, limited to urban areas, such as London and Newcastle. As Internet usage increased in the 1990s and 2000s, both companies started to use their cable network to provide a broadband Internet service. NTL and the Virgin Group also launched the Virgin.net Internet service provider (ISP) in 1996, and operated it jointly until 2006, when NTL purchased the company. Incidentally, Virgin.net used BT landlines, rather than its NTL's cable network, to provide its dial-up and ADSL broadband services.

The original NTL Logo
(Pictured: the original NTL Logo)

The original Telwest Logo
(Pictured: the original Telwest Logo)

The two companies merged in 2006 to form NTL:Telwest
(Pictured: the two companies merged in 2006)

NTL:Telwest were rebrand using the Virgin brandname in 2007
(Pictured: they were rebrand using the Virgin brandname in 2007)

NTL rapidly expanded in the 1990s, and this resulted in the company having to enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States in 2002. In 2003, the BBC reported that NTL had emerged from bankruptcy protection in the United States when it agreed to swap $10.9bn (£6.8bn) of debt from its lenders for new shares. NTL and Telewest operated cable networks in different geographic areas of the UK, so their merger was logical, but took time to complete, with initial discussions beginning in 2003 and the completion of the merger on the 3rd of March 2006. The new company was named NTL:Telewest. In July of 2006, NTL:Telewest purchased Virgin Mobile, and this acquisition resulted in the first UK telecommunications company that offered four services: TV, Broadband, Phone (Landline) and Mobile. After an agreement with Richard Branson and Virgin Group, NTL:Telewest purchased the Virgin brandname, and renamed their company to Virgin Media on the 8th of February 2007.

Virgin Media's broadband service began life as a combination of three services: NTL's cable broadband network; Telewest's Blueyonder cable broadband network; and Virgin.net ADSL broadband service that operated over BT's landline network. Broadband provided by a cable television network, such as NTL and Telewest, tended to use either a coaxial cable or a hybrid fibre-coaxial infrastructure. Analysis of broadband market share in the UK, during this period -- conducted by Point-Topic -- suggested that Virgin Media had the largest market share with around 28-29%. In 2008, Virgin Media were amongst the first UK companies to deliver a 'fiber optic' broadband service; a full year before BT Openreach promised to connect UK homes to fiber optic. Presently, Virgin Media advertise their broadband service as using DOCSIS 3.0 cable, which they state is a cable that is a: "unique thicker insulated cable that runs from the cabinet to your home and retains the speed regardless of the distance." Virgin Media currently state on their website that the average speed of this service is 363Mbps, compared to BT's 67Mbps and Sky's 63Mbps.

The only drawback with Virgin Media's DOCSIS 3.0 cable broadband service -- just as with NTL's and Telewest's cable broadband service -- is its coverage. While it continues to be expanded, as with BT's fiber optic network, many rural areas and small towns are not connected. To check whether your home can be connected visit: https://www.virginmedia.com/postcode-checker. Virgin Media still operate email accounts -- for their customers -- using the domain name: @ntlworld.com, @blueyonder.co.uk and @virgin.net; their accounts having been grandfathered before the merger of 2006.