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In the latest development of its growing ultra-fast network across the UK, Liberty Global has announced that its UK subsidiary, Virgin Media, has brought gigabit broadband services to almost a million homes in Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford.
After adding these locations to its gigabit-capable footprint, Liberty Global now has more than 12 million homes across Europe that are gigabit-ready. This figure rises to 13.2 million homes with the inclusion of the gigabit footprint of VodafoneZiggo, the company’s joint venture in the Netherlands.
Elsewhere among Liberty Global’s operating companies, Telenet and UPC Switzerland connected customers throughout their entire networks last year, while UPC Poland has so far connected more than 60 cities to its gigabit service.
The new UK deployment means that Virgin Media’s gigabit network now covers a quarter of the cable provider’s premises and Liberty claims that Virgin now boasts the UK’s largest gigabit network.
The media firm said that by providing ultra-high capacity, reliable, secure, resilient and low-latency networks, gigabit speed broadband services will unlock significant economic growth. It quoted research from international management consulting firm Arthur D Little, noting that the innovation spurred by the widespread availability of gigabit speeds are estimated to deliver €250bn-€660bn of economic value per year in Europe by 2025.
“Within the past 10 years, we have gone from offering speeds of 100Mbps to making gigabit-ready connections available to more than 12 million homes across our European footprint,” said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries. “We are continuing to invest in the fastest broadband network in the UK and our recently announced merger with O2 creates an even more exciting opportunity to accelerate growth in the future.”
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 and Coventry, then lately Edinburgh and Liverpool – with the Gig1 fibre broadband service that delivers connectivity of up to 1104Mbps, said to be 20 times faster than the UK average broadband speed.
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The speed increases in Glasgow, Leeds and Bradford are part of Virgin Media’s plan to bring gigabit speeds to more than 15 million homes across its network by the end of 2021, significantly ahead of the UK government’s target of delivering gigabit-capable broadband nationwide by 2025.
The 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.
In the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, prime minister Boris Johnson’s then newly elected government indicated that 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. A recent 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.