Virgin Media spreads UK gigabit broadband reach

Launch of gigabit broadband in Merseyside and Edinburgh sees Virgin Media add more than 600,000 homes to fibre network, taking total to 2.7 million properties

UK cable provider Virgin Media has announced that Liverpool and Edinburgh have become the next cities to benefit from its Gig1 gigabit broadband offering.

The new deployments add more than 600,000 homes to Virgin’s fibre network and boost its plan to offer fibre to more than half the UK by the end of 2021. Some 2.7 million properties across Virgin Media’s network can now access fibre connectivity, which means nearly one-fifth of its network is now gigabit-enabled.

Virgin Media began trialling what it says is the UK’s fastest home broadband in February 2019 with a full-fibre connection offering speeds of more than 8Gbps to homes in Cambridgeshire. The trial made use of Ethernet passive optical network (EPON) technology.

It then introduced gigabit-speed broadband to residents in selected parts of the UK – Southampton, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Coventry, and now Edinburgh and Liverpool – with the Gig1 fibre broadband service that delivers connectivity up to 1104Mbps, said to be 20 times faster than the UK average broadband speed. The company plans to bring gigabit connectivity to about 15 million UK homes by the end of 2021.

“Through continued investment, we’ll be bringing this next-generation connectivity to many more cities this year as we roll out gigabit broadband across our entire network at a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else,” said Jeff Dodds, chief operating officer at Virgin Media. “Whatever the future holds, we’re connecting our customers to what’s next.”

Virgin Media will announce which other cities will benefit from its Gig1 service later in the year as the operator continues its national gigabit roll-out plan. It said the Liverpool and Edinburgh deployments form part of its attempt to deliver half of the UK government’s stated ambition for gigabit broadband ambition four years early.

The UK government is committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible, with the ambition to deliver it by 2025. It says such next-generation connectivity has the potential to revolutionise communities and make them more attractive places to live, giving people the freedom to live and work more flexibly and help develop thriving digital economies.

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In the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, prime minister Boris Johnson’s then newly elected government indicated it would introduce laws to accelerate the delivery of gigabit-capable broadband across the UK by 2025, a legislative journey that began in January 2020. The 2020 Budget statement confirmed the government’s commitment to invest a total of £5bn to roll out full-fibre broadband across the country.

The latest part of this strategy saw more than 50,000 homes and businesses in rural Wales given the potential to have their broadband upgraded, as part of a new collaboration between the UK and Welsh governments to upgrade the national broadband infrastructure.

The new scheme for Wales is to double the maximum funding available through each voucher and is now worth £7,000 for SMEs and £3,000 for residential premises. The vouchers can be used to subsidise the cost of building out next-generation broadband infrastructure, such as fibre-optic cables, to rural villages and towns.

The UK government also believes the vouchers will incentivise other broadband companies to build in these locations.

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