news Virgin Media has committed to what it called the “largest UK fibre broadband rollout”, that will bring fibre optic services directly to domestic and business premises.
In a statement, the broadband provider said it will connect fibre to the premises (FTTP) to “at least a quarter” of the 4 million additional homes and businesses being added to the Virgin Media network as part of an expansion it calls “Project Lightning”.
Fibre to the Premises is the model which Labor initiated for Australia’s own National Broadband Network, although the Coalition has since changed the model to a “Multi-Technology Mix” featuring Fibre to the Node and HFC cable. Virgin Media is best known as a HFC cable operator in the UK, but has since expanded into providing FTTP services, in the opposite approach to that being taken in Australia under the Coalition’s version of the NBN.
Virgin Media also said it will give 17 million premises access to its network by 2019 – a date that has been pulled back from a previous estimate of 2020.
“This is the single largest investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure in more than a decade,” the firm said.
Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO, commented: “Our £3bn investment to bring ultrafast connectivity to more parts of the UK is not just about better broadband, it’s about future-proofing the country’s network infrastructure with the best and most modern technology.”
“While some companies talk a good game, Virgin Media is putting its money where its mouth is and laying fibre to the premise alongside our superior HFC network – delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds,” he added.
Communications watchdog Ofcom recently reported that the UK has the lowest proportion of fibre connections running directly to homes and businesses of any OECD nation.
“The plans unveiled by Virgin Media today are a significant boost to the UK’s ambitions to become a ‘fibre nation’. As a result, Virgin Media becomes the UK’s largest wholly fibre broadband network in the UK,” said the company in its statement.
Virgin Media’s UK network offers broadband speeds of up to 200Mbps for consumers and 300Mbps for businesses – most commonly via its hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network, which combines optical fibre to the street cabinet and coaxial cable to the premises.
However, Virgin Media has now pledged to bring FTTP to “at least one in four properties” in its Project Lightning expansion.
The company has already started to roll out FTTP in parts of the UK, such as Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire, with work expected to commence soon in West Yorkshire, Devon and East Sussex.
Virgin said that by using new engineering techniques such as ‘narrow trenching’, FTTP can be deployed “at lower cost and more quickly” in high-demand areas.
Additionally, the company said it expects that Project Lightning bring about the creation of 6,000 new jobs, including 1,000 new apprentices.
“Backing firms that grow and create jobs is a key part of our plan to boost productivity and deliver economic security for working people,” said the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne.