Virgin Media set to speed up Three’s 5G infrastructure

5 May 2020

Dark fibre being used to speed up 5G

Virgin Media and Three have just signed an agreement which could see the latter’s 5G service improved, and the former become the biggest player in 5G backhaul.

Specifically, Virgin Media is set to connect more than 3,000 of Three’s 5G sites to dark fibre cables, so that data can rapidly be sent between masts, and to and from the core network.

That could benefit users, as while we tend to think of 5G as a wireless technology, it’s only wireless when sending the signal from a mast to a phone – most of the rest of the network is wired, depending on a ‘backhaul’ network, and Virgin Media’s fibre cables should help ensure Three can meet the growing demands for data without any bottlenecks.

The backbone of the UK's 5G networks

While there’s no official press release at the time of writing, Peter Kelly, managing director of Virgin Media’s business unit, told the Financial Times that with this deal Virgin Media was becoming a “backhaul bastion.”

It’s a justifiable claim, as Virgin Media has a similar deal in place with Vodafone, and is in talks to merge with O2, which, if it happened, would likely leave just EE/BT and its MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) not using Virgin Media's fibre backhaul.

Three for its part isn’t relying purely on Virgin Media for fibre backhaul though. It recently signed a similar deal with CityFibre for example, which is the network's preferred backhaul provider for its nationwide 5G rollout outside London.

Still, no matter what company provides the backhaul, the fact that Three has these deals in place should be good news for customers, as it’s likely to boost network capacity and could also improve 4G services.

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Sub-Editor at 5G.co.uk

James is sub-editor at both 5G.co.uk and TechRadar. Also works as a researcher/ technical writer for 5G.co.uk and several other websites including TechRadar, T3, Smart TV Radar, 3G.co.uk with work on the web, in print and on TV.

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