Virgin brings gigabit broadband to London and Northern Ireland

Nearly three million homes in UK capital and Ulster gain access to gigabit connections with the next-generation infrastructure now in 45% of Virgin’s network across the UK

Virgin Media has extended the reach of its gigabit network to regions of London and across Northern Ireland, and claims to be on track to roll out gigabit speeds to its entire network, covering more than half of the UK, by the end of 2021.

Residents in those areas can now make the most of Virgin Media’s Gig1 broadband, which the company says is more than 17 times faster than the national average with speeds of 1,104Mbps. The new launch takes Virgin Media’s total gigabit footprint to 6.8 million homes, representing 45% of its network, which means more than 16 million people in the UK now have access to the service.

Virgin plans to bring gigabit broadband to its entire network of more than 15 million homes by the end of 2021, helping to deliver more than half of the UK government’s longer-term broadband ambition, which would see the UK have national full-fibre access by 2025. Virgin Media’s gigabit network is already available in areas across the UK that include Southampton, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford and Glasgow.

“It has never been clearer that our services play a vital role in supporting people’s everyday lives and powering the economy,” said Virgin Media chief executive officer Lutz Schüler. “The nation needs next-generation connectivity and we are delivering. Our ambitious target will see us roll out gigabit speeds across our entire network of more than 15 million homes by the end of next year.

“We are on track to deliver that promise, with homes in London and Northern Ireland the latest to gain access to blisteringly fast Gig1 services. As our roll-out continues at a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else, whatever the future holds, we are keeping our customers and the country connected to what’s next.”

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan added: “The roll-out of ultrafast broadband is vital for London’s future – it will create jobs, stimulate growth and give a much-needed boost to businesses at a crucial time. As mayor, I am proud we are making real progress on London’s worst ‘not-spots’ – including getting mobile coverage on the Underground, starting with the Jubilee Line.

“It’s great news that Virgin Media is continuing to invest in London and ensuring six million Londoners can access gigabit speeds.”

Meanwhile, Virgin has released new analysis claiming that gigabit broadband could unlock an opportunity worth more than £11bn a year to the national economy in saved working hours. The Gigabit opportunity report looks at how advances in connectivity have transformed lives in recent years, and argues that gigabit broadband can remove barriers to remote working, enabling the next wave of connected home devices and support new technological innovations.

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With about half of the UK population working remotely, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the report reveals that 80% of homeworkers were losing time to slow broadband, with the average remote worker wasting up to 11 minutes a day – equivalent to four full working days since the start of lockdown in March.

Virgin calculated that over the Covid lockdown and restrictions period so far, that lost time is worth more than £7bn. The report identifies how the widespread adoption of next-generation broadband can help claw back millions of lost working hours, helping to boost labour productivity levels.

It adds that as businesses continue to adopt cloud technology applications and services – which increasingly rely on fast, reliable connectivity – the importance of ultrafast and gigabit broadband will increase, and slow broadband will become a bigger drag on the economy. Although broadband networks have collectively held up well during the lockdown, despite surges in demand, the research suggests slow and unreliable connection speeds are hampering remote workers’ productivity.

Yet Virgin’s research also found that Covid-19 has accelerated moves towards digital technology. Even though just under one-fifth of home workers want to return to the office full-time, nearly half (47%) have had to turn off their video in a meeting because of poor broadband connectivity, with 33% indicating that colleagues have been late or had to skip a meeting entirely because of connectivity issues.

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