back to article Sky calls for access to cable network

Sky has called on the government and regulators to open up Virgin Media's infrastructure to competitors, claiming it will speed roll-out of high speed broadband services. In its response to Lord Carter's interim Digital Britain Report, Sky said it was "increasingly anomalous" that the cable network is closed to competition …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ... and how about open access to your satellite network too?

  2. zaax

    sky to dig up roads?

    Why doesn't SKY dig up the roads and put in their own ducting? There is still 50% of the country not covered by cable. Is it because they can't be bothered to offer Broadband over satellite?

    Mean while in the real world, it would be better for local councils to put in the ducting and rent the space to anyone who would like to put in fiber.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hooray for Sky

    Once you have got used to the higher speeds and reliability that come with the cable system, youu then have a stuggle dealing with downgrading to ADSL if you want to get out of the

    Virgin = phorm included; Sky = phorm free trap. Opening the cable to competition is good news for those of us who don't want to be pharmed

  4. Ben Rose

    Slight difference

    The big difference here is that BT inherited a nationwide copper telephone network that had been built using tax payers money.

    Virgin, on the other hand, are using cables and ducts that were laid decades later using entirely private money. Virgin recently sent 5 men to my house to dig an extension to their ducting so my new build was connected. This was at their own expense and you cannot expect Virgin to give access to this by other operators for free.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Those backstabbing hypocritical C***S

    They denied access to the only decent channels they have (that aren't on freeview) because they are greedy shits...Now they want a favour from Virgin!

    It's virgins network.... therefore it's their choice. If the Govn't want to force them to allow others to use it then they have to reimburse Virgin (or who ever they are now) the billions of pounds spent on rolling it out....Where does that money come from? Sky? I doubt it, it'll come out of the tax payers pocket again...Fuck that, i'd rather just subscribe to virgin through choice...not effectivly be forced to .

  6. Steven

    Just spat out my tea...

    Sky complaining about unfair competition???? You've got to be kidding considering their blatant domination of the TV market, sports, movies etc. Didn't they even take a load of channels from Virgin (Sky 1 etc) at one point? Where was the competition commission then. Put your dummy back in Sky and go lay your own fibre network.

  7. Richard Gadsden

    So Sky will open up their platform then?

    Yeah, right. This is $ky wanting to get into someone else's system without letting anyone else into their own. Can we have a Rupert Murdoch with Devil Horns, please?

  8. gautam

    Thats progress (Perhaps) - About time

    If this happens, floodgates wll open for competition (of couse at a reasonable price point) unless they behave like BT and price small operators out!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It just goes to show you can't be too much like David Mitchell.

  10. Lloyd Kinsella


    Didn't Telewest/NTL get into a shed load of debt putting in the infrastructure? That's nice, they do the work and BT swans in and reaps the benefit. Does this also mean that Virgin also equally gets to use the satellite network Sky does to reach people it doesn't have cabled?

  11. Nik Owen

    Sky want the earth

    Like V media are going to allow that to happen after it has purchased all the companies that paid millions to lay the cables and ducts in the first place! perhaps sky would allow V Media to put another dish on their space dustbin to broadcast more channels.

    Leave our BB alone, the customer service is c*ap but its quick and isn't throttled by heavy users .

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    While this is true. VM need to allow more fiber to be rolled out for what we need (Why are we funding BT?). Sky have a cheek to complain that they are monopolising.

    Sky the company that owns the encryption company. The hardware company. And the distribution and development company. Claim about monopolising?

    bah.... funny guys

  13. Les

    Why don't they do something useful instead?

    Why don't they offer to lay cable in places where there isn't any already?

  14. Steve Loughran

    Sky complaining about monopolies

    What next? Walmart complaining that Tesco has a near-monopoly in the UK?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down


    Virgin should let them rent bandwidth on their own network, then jack up the prices after they've got a decent number of subscribers.

    I don't think that anyone having anything to do with Virgin's network is a good idea. They don't cover enough of the population; you'd be left with a few cities in England getting an orgasm-inducing 2000Mbps up-and-downstream 1ms-to-Oz latency connection and everywhere else stuck on BT's crap network where repair cycles are measured in seasons and download rates aren't that far off it.

    Far better to upgrade the national infrastructure to the point that Virgin have to improve and expand in order to survive.

    <rant> I mean how can it not be economically viable to serve Aberdeen, a former cable-rigged town and one of the few almost-recession-proof areas of the UK, when you can serve Dundee, a mere 60 miles away? </rant>

  16. Paul Murphy

    So when will sky open their satellite customers to other operators?

    I'm sure they wouldn't want that.

    Though the regulator should really look at the lock-down that sky has over live 'premiere' football (and other events), which means that all the football-addicted sheep in this country have to use them to watch people kicking a pigs-bladder around a field.


  17. Michael B.

    Cheeky Beggers

    "Sky said it was 'increasingly anomalous' that the cable network is closed to competition while BT's infrastructure is not."

    Could it have something to do with the fact that the BT network was largely created with public money and Virginmedia's network was created with private money, albeit with a local monopoly, and has struggled with the debt that this has saddled them with. If Sky want to pay off VM's debt then I'm sure VM will allow them access to their network until then if Sky want access to a highspeed, non-ADSL, network they will just have to build it themselves.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Maybe Sky..

    should practice what it preaches.

    And open up its monopoly to retail competition and become a wholesale provider, maybe it will help with the uptake of HD digital TV.

    Instead of the Murdoch Empire buying the rights to everything then charging through the teeth again and again to the average punter.

    *\. Still flying the flag for the Revolution, for the day we can switch to a Resource based economy and get rid of these pointless and arguably social/enviromental/soul crushing/murderous corporations.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    why just Virgins ducts?

    why pick on Virgin here? What about BTs (the old PO) ducts? Virgin (nee NTL, blueyonder, diamond, C&W et al) spent all their own money to get those ducts that their customer base has been paying for. the BT/PO ducsts were paid for by the tax payer.

    sure , Sky should be able to use Virgins ducts - but at a cost. likewise, people should be able to use Skys satellites - at a cost.

  20. Craig

    Oh FFS Sky, give it a rest

    I'm get sick fed-up of one of the larger monopolies in the UK constantly citing unfair competition to try and topple the competition. I'm not a Virgin Media customer, but I understand that they have invested a significant amount to implement the infrastructure over which they deliver their services. Why TF should Sky be entitled to a share of that?

    It was the same with the collaboration between the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. Sky was invited to participate at the early stages but declined. Then it threw a curve ball by claiming that the collaboration would create a monopoly and stifle competition. Unfortunately some half-wit judge agreed with them and we, the British public, are poorer for it since it will cost the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 a helluva lot more to create their own independent online TV solutions.

    It's about time that someone gave Sky a taste of their own vile medicine.

  21. Dino
    Paris Hilton

    er sky should open sats as well

    Sky has a monopoly on tv sat as well - they should share their toys as well...

    Also - NTL nearly bankrupted themselves laying cable across the land too fast without enough people subscribing. Maybe others should get use of the ducts BUT if NTL/virgin/telewest paid for them then they should be able to charge for allowing others to use the ducts...

  22. Anonymous Coward




    SKY of all people complaining about competitors and saying that should open up. For some reason that makes me laugh a hell of a lot

  23. paul
    IT Angle

    ha ha

    Sky moaning about being open. Pot meet kettle.

    I wouldn't surprise me that if you get their internet they somehow change the content some how so that it mirrors the trash in the sun.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    I wonder what will happen once the fibre starts going in, how many will be damaged without ease. Look in some of the city centres or estates where RG11 has to be used a lot and see how congested the pipework is, then imagine trying to have some fibre in there!!

    Also how do they plan to get the fibre anywhere as the systems are closed and will only connect to the nearest cabinet. Are they then going to do some form of BT FTTC and to get the fibre on further.

    This would be a logistical nightmare and i hardly see sky wanting to stump up the cost, more just try and scr3w virgin over for having to give sk1 and the like back :)

    Virgin should start pushing up the price of the channels they push to sky users up and up in the same way as costs are going up these days you know with advertising bringing little money in i'd love to see sky struggle with it, i would kinda miss DS9 and the like as im in a non cable area but if i could ever move back to a cabled one i would do it as sky is cack, the box is as bad as the V+ and has worse signal issues!!

    Paris because even she knows sky are cackers!

  25. Anonymous Coward



    I'm not a big fan of the Murdoch empire, but Sky has an excellent point.

    Let's start off by dispelling a few myths about Sky's satellite network. They don't have one. No, really. Sky just rent capacity from SES Astra - they don't own the satellites themselves. Lots of providers use Astra satellites in this way. If you want to compete with Sky, go right ahead and rent some capacity.

    Now, consider ADSL and landline connections. BT effectively allow competitors access to the local loop, so several different providers can give you broadband over BT connections. OK, maybe BT aren't happy about it.. but they do it. Also, be in no doubt the BT want Openreach (who provide the local loop) to be a separable business that could be floated independently. So, if you want to compete for ADSL subscribers over BT lines, go right ahead.

    This brings us to Virgin Media. VM is unique in that it is an absolutely closed system from end-to-end. Virgin control the programming, broadband provision and even the local cabling completely and do not allow anyone else to have access. If BT behaves like this, they would be breaking the law. But for some reason, Virgin's monopoly is not regulated in the same way.

    Not only does Virgin close the door to competition, but their whole business model has got FAIL written all over it. The company's mountain of debt will probably kill it off eventually, and exactly what ARE they trying to be? A TV company? An ISP? A physical network provider? Compare the complexity of VM's business model with Sky's. Sky hardly own anything, not the satellite, not your satellite dish, not your set-top-box, not the BT line that they use for their broadband.. really Sky's investment is very little. Which do you think is more likely to succeed?

    My two cents worth: break VM up. Split the cable network (so digital TV delivery, wholesale broadband and plain old telephone service) into a different company.. let's call it National Transcommunications Ltd (i.e. NTL). VM can continue to provide everything else through whatever delivery mechanism it sees fit through NTL or another provider (including Astra), NTL can rent out its network as it sees fit. People with really long memories might realise that this is EXACTLY what NTL used to do as a business when it ran the TV transmitter network.

    The advantage is that VM can compete with Sky on equal terms. "NTL" can compete with Openreach on equal terms, especially if it gets taken over by another infrastructure provider. And customers can get whatever they want.

    Virgin Media is really just a reboot of those old-fashioned monopolies that we all used to hate. Time to get rid of it.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @use Skys satellites - at a cost.

    Sky don't actually own any satellites, they belong to SES-Astra... what needs to happen with Sky is that their platform needs to be opened up for third-party receiving equipment... instead of the cheap junk Sky supplies.... also the EPG ownership should be removed from sky, so that other broadcasters can use it too... no need for a separate FreeSat network from the same satellite cluster....

  27. Joel

    LLU anyone?

    If Sky want to play that game, why not put an obligation on them to offer their LLU pricing to all exchanges. If they choose not to actually unbundle the exchange then fair enough, but they should have to offer the same pricing to all exchange areas.

    The issue is not about cherry-picking the easy areas, but about how to get NGA to the 60% of areas that don't have Virgin coverage...

  28. Mark H

    A couple of points

    1. Virgin would make lots of money renting their bandwidth out to other companies like Sky. That's why they say they aren't against the idea.

    2. Sky's platform is actually fairly open - what do you think Freesat uses?

  29. Neil

    Hello Pot?

    This is Kettle. You're Black.

    Give us on Virgin all the HD channels, then we'll talk.

  30. Colin Millar

    Right idea - wrong reason

    The reason you don't want the "deployment of public money" in this is that the Govt is likely to back a three-legged dog and not because it would be "wasted funding investments that would otherwise shortly be made by the private sector"

    Virgin should have their right to lay cable pulled if they don't get on and do it. They should also be obliged to make access to the cable infrastructure available and Sky should be obliged to make access to the satellite infrastructure available.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Quid pro quo?

    Did Sky ever offer its satellite footprint to other organisations?

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Who payed for cable?

    There is an argument to say that Virgin Media didn't pay to lay all the fibre in the (profitable corners of the) country - NTL and Telewest did. I don't believe they ever paid all of that investment off, in fact went into financial difficulties about 5 years ago, pulled off a debt-for-equity swap (giving their debtors shares in the company) and subsequently those shares disappeared (de-listed). The debt "magically" vanished.

    Technically, they're sitting on a cash cow with nothing except the support overheads of the infrastructure, much like BT.

    To turn them into a wholesale supplier would not be such a bad thing.

    As for Sky monopolising the airwaves, as pointed out Sky don't own an infrastructure, they just rent it and are content providers. If they owned the satelite network there would have been valid reasons to compell them to open it up.

    As it is, as broadcasters they DO open their "network" up. Feel free to launch your own channel on Sky and let them manage it - most of the channels on Sky are not owned by Sky.

  33. amanfromMars Silver badge

    The Flip Side.

    Rupert has lost the Plot which Leads and is a very sore loser? Oh dear, what a shame. Ah well, he can cry into his wallet and pretend it is all part of his master plan. You certainly could describe Sky as a Public Service and therefore their views to Government are irrelevent as they are bound to be self-serving. But hey, you can't blame the Wily Ole Fox for trying to Spin a Tale is what they do for a Living.

  34. Red Bren
    Paris Hilton

    @AC - Hurrah

    "VM is unique in that it is an absolutely closed system from end-to-end."

    I seem to recall AOL offering broadband over VM's cable.

    "If BT behaves like this, they would be breaking the law. But for some reason, Virgin's monopoly is not regulated in the same way."

    As other commentators have stated, BT inherited the publicly built infrastructure, VM (through corporate ancestry) paid for theirs. If Mr Murdoch wants to lay some cable* he's free to do so.

    "exactly what ARE they [VM] trying to be? A TV company? An ISP? A physical network provider?"

    Well that question can also be levelled at Sky.

    "My two cents worth: break VM up."

    Actually, I agree. But I would also apply that to Sky. Content and Delivery in both companies should be split. SkyTV and VMTV (and others) can compete for ad revenue the rights to show UK sport and US imports. SkyNet and VMNet (and BT) can compete on platform features and price. And the customer gets to choose from the same 200 channels of drivel, regardless of how they watch.

    *fnar, sorry!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Were is the string ...

    for this kite? Lots of hot air and indignation but what are Sky really after and why? This is the start of a negotiation over what? Were are Virgin weak to Sky's strength? I confess I don't know but it sounds like a pawn has just been moved.

    Those with knowledge have any ideas?

  36. matt young

    o come on...

    virgins network is about a 50/50 mix of actual paid for conenctions and "unsubscribed" conenctions, theres no way sky would want to buy services directly from virgin who's network is about as secure as a government department... the whole loss of sky chanels boiled down to virgins inability to deal with the bootleg boxes on the network.... now hands up, who doesnt at least know someone with a dodgy cable box or modem?

  37. stuart Thompson


    @ Ben Rose

    Exactly what i was about to say.

    I initially assumed BT wanted acess to the Actual fibre which would be wrong as Ben pointed out.

    However using ducting that already exists surley makes sense for everyone. Virgin get a fat check BT get a backbone network at a fraction of the time/cost and we dont have all the streets dug up... again


    Except maybe for virgin who lose a slight competitive edge.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Hey, easy solution

    If Sky want access to Virgin's infrastructure, then there's a very easy solution. Last time I looked VM was a public company (shares etc), in which case what's wrong with BSkyB buying a large number of shares in VM? Heck it's a win all round - Sky gets the LLU that they want to use against BT; VM gets a very badly needed injection of cold cash; and us VM subscribers get the blessed opportunity to lose that bunch of useless d---heads that run VM at the moment (mostly ex-NThell from what I hear). Only downside is that someone'll report it to the Monopolies and Mergers folks and it'll get stalled.

    If Sky want VM's cable trunks so badly, why not lean on HMG and see if they can get some government pork for 'essential infrastructure' a la BT for VM. Otherwise what Sky's asking for is for others to take all the risks so they can take the profits.

    @Hurrah for Sky:

    "Virgin = phorm included; Sky = phorm free trap." Sorry VM is _looking_ at Phorm (and it looks like they're not spending a lot of time and money with those snake oil salesmen - none suits me fine), and you can bet your last cent that Sky are looking at it too - quietly. Hell if VM has introduced that wiretapping then someone would let it slip and VM's subscriber numbers would get a major adjustment - downwards.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Sky/Easynet taking the piss or what

    Sky have there own cable network across the country as a result of the marconi/ipsaris reverse merger in 2001ish, or have they forgotten about that?

    So as a prolific unbundler with a large LLU footprint plus a national closed network behind it why are they pissing and moaning about access to Virgins ducts?

    Paris, no access to a virgins ducts there!

  40. Mr Mark V Thomas
    Paris Hilton

    Pot Calling Kettle Black Redux

    Ok then, let Sky have access to Virgin's cable network, on the condition it sells the 18% of ITV shares it holds, which as I recall, was a "Poison pill" strategy in order to stop Virgin Media mounting a takeover bid for ITV , a couple of years ago . ..

    Will this happen...?

    I Think Hell will probably freeze over first..

  41. amanfromMars Silver badge

    A New Class of Business Professional in the Virtually Perfect Amateur

    ""exactly what ARE they [VM] trying to be? A TV company? An ISP? A physical network provider?"" .... By Red Bren Posted Thursday 19th March 2009 17:35 GMT

    Red Bren,

    If you ask the Bearded Knight he might tell you that they are a Virtualisation Machine, and into Cornering ITs Markets, and the Market Place and CyberSpace, for Slicing/Chopping and Dicing of ITs Products for Onward Dedicated Delivery ..... and there's very little and maybe absolutely nothing that anyone can do about it. Although why anyone would want to try, other than to steal Virgin Thunder and Lightning Returns on Investment, would be an interesting question to answer.

    I wonder if El Reg is read by Sir Richard. He could then maybe speak for himself on the matter to either confirm or deny the Range of Virgin Vision and Virtual XXXXPertise.

    And I suppose, with what we would all already know of his past momentous achievements, it would come as no great surprise to anyone to hear of such Astute Out of this World HyperManIQ Activity ... ESPecial Interest. Par for his Rocket Course, meThinks.

    "VM subscribers get the blessed opportunity to lose that bunch of useless d---heads that run VM at the moment " .... By Robert Cross Posted Thursday 19th March 2009 21:02 GMT


    An easier solution would be for the Introduction/Hiring of a new head to provide Virtual Leadership and that may even be as simple as Sir Richard launching another MasterPiloted Craft/CyberSpace Vehicle for the Hire to feed Intellectual Property/Creative Ideas into Existing Infrastructure, thus making Beta Use of "that bunch of useless d---heads". All it takes nowadays, to Run, and to Run with such Organisations, are Beings who can Fly High in ITs Rarefied Atmospheres by simply Providing a Bigger Picture View of what can be done in and with the Virtual Environment/Binary Code/Digital Signature/ElectroMagnetic Pulsating Spectrum/call IT what you will.

    "Paris, no access to a virgins ducts there!" .... By Anonymous Coward Posted Thursday 19th March 2009 21:07 GMT

    AC, That is not very gallant and a white knight will always ride to defend the honour of a wronged maiden. Quite obviously Paris is still a Love virgin, which has absolutely nothing to with fleeting frivolous access but everything to do with lasting passionate intent aka Commitment.

    'Tis ever the Enigma of the Butterfly and the Honey Bee in the Perfumed Garden of Exotic Erotic Flowers and Hardy Magnificent Weeds.

  42. 3x2


    AC - Hurrah.

    (...) This brings us to Virgin Media. VM is unique in that it is an absolutely closed system from end-to-end. (...) If BT behaves like this, they would be breaking the law. But for some reason, Virgin's monopoly is not regulated in the same way.(...)

    Not only does Virgin close the door to competition(...)

    My two cents worth: break VM up. (...)


    VM is a privately funded network and as such they can do whatever they please.

    What you are suggesting sends one message to anyone thinking of investing in ANY project - DON'T - if you are successful the results will be forcibly taken from you and re-distributed. I think you may find that system has been tried before and FAIL doesn't begin to describe the result.

    Comparisons with BT are appropriate here but only because before privatization BT was the end result of what you suggest.

  43. Anonymous Coward

    Disaster waiting to happen

    Having experienced the astonishing incompetence of Sky customer service on many occasions (not to mention the frankly shoddy hardware/software in their set-top boxes), I can't imagine how much worse it would get if they try to deal with a whole new type of broadcast technology.

  44. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Admire your balls Sky!

    I think Sky are great, took them on when I got sick and tired of VM's useless service and pathetic attitude to it's customers, but come on Sky aren't you taking the wotnot just a little bit? The footy, the movies, etc?

    C&W dug up half the country, dug themselves in to debt to give a beardy an easy option when he wanted a new toy, but it was privately funded, so within in reason I would grudgingly support VM if they told Sky where to get off.

  45. Anonymous Coward

    Sky already owns a terrestrial network

    Sky bought Easynet. Easynet previously bought Ipsaris. Ipsaris had previously done a deal with British Waterways (or whatever they are called) and laid a huge fibre network throughout the whole of the UK along all the canals and waterways right into the cities and built major metro networks around these cities. Ipsaris was owned by GEC (built up by Lord Weinstock and then trashed by the two muppets whose names escape me), which was using its subsidiary company as a vehicle to buy its own DSLAM kit etc, etc.

    Anyway, as GEC was going titsup, it loaded Ipsaris with a nice cash pile and tried to merge with Easynet. Numskulls in charge got it wrong big time and Easynet got hold of the fibre network and the cash then kicked out all the Ipsaris bods. Ta very much!

    Murdoch then sweeps in and hoovers up a competent ISP and probably one of the biggest privately owned fibre networks in the UK. Nice one.

    So in the context of this story, Sky is pulling a big one. They've got the country network but are looking for last mile access which is not copper pair. Give them that and Sky will have the triple play / quad play market by the balls.

  46. Chris Silver badge

    @Matt Young

    "now hands up, who doesnt at least know someone with a dodgy cable box or modem?"

    One hand on heart, one hand in the air, I can honestly say I'm not aware of anyone I know being in possession of a dodgy cable box/modem. OTOH, dodgy Sky access cards... both hands dive quickly into my pockets as I exit the room, whistling innocently to myself. If the risk of losing revenue through hacked receivers really was the reason for Sky to pull channels from Virgin, then it'd simply be another instance of a food warming container suggesting that a water boiling implement had a rather dark hue about it.

    Chris - a Sky and VM subscriber, who knows which of the two he mistrusts the least...

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Common Misconception

    I don't think BT is made to share its toys because they were paid for with public money, it's because of the monopoly position they inherited.

    The infrastructure was built with public money but then the government sold it. Once it's been sold it belongs to the shareholders and how it was originally paid for matters not one bit. The East Coast Main Line was paid for with public money, it doesn't mean I can go buy a train and play choo choos on it.

    Where there's a monopoly or Significant Market Power (SMP) today BT has to share, where there isn't it doesn't. The price is set by the regulator to be not too low (sending competitors bust) nor too high (profiteering). Hence I think no price controls on international calls for the last few years as BT carries less than half of them. So - taking very high speed consumer broadband, Virgin have a monopoly and should I think be required to share under a regulatory arrangement.

  48. chris

    because BT are late in catching up -turn to virgin (NTL)

    Of course if BT had ever tried catching up with the Virgin cable network; sky wouldn't be whinging about this matter at all, they be a parasite on BT's back. Bastards.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SKY and FTTH

    It's obvious. For SKY to be consistent here, in exchange for access to VM network, they would like to join a national initiative to help FTTH happen. There contribution will be to use FTTH to deliver all their programming, not very efficient but it's good for the nation.

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