Virgin Media

Virgin Media O2 uses gigabit voucher scheme to connect rural Sussex homes

Recently merged communications provider announces that it will, for the first time, make use of government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help residents in West Sussex benefit from next-generation connectivity

When it began life on 2 June 2021, the merged Virgin Media O2 promised to create “unbeatable” choice at a time when connectivity has never been more critical, as the UK recovers and rebuilds from the Covid-19 pandemic. Its first step towards delivering on this promise is to make use of the UK government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme – for the first time – to help residents in West Sussex benefit from next-generation connectivity.

In 2019, the government committed to delivering nationwide gigabit-capable broadband as soon as possible, with the ambition to deliver it by 2025. Many thought the programme would be severely curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and that the nation’s broadband infrastructure would collapse under the extra strain of people working from home. But in September 2020, research from UK communications regulator Ofcom provided evidence that this was avoided during lockdown by the accelerated roll-out of fibre networks capable of supporting gigabit broadband services.

The UK voucher scheme targets areas where the cost of building new gigabit broadband infrastructure, which often requires digging trenches to lay full-fibre cables to people’s doorsteps, is likely to be too high for commercial operators to cover alone. Since May 2019, vouchers worth up to £3,500 for small and medium-sized businesses and up to £1,500 for residential premises have been available to cover these costs across the UK. The voucher scheme is available through a number of broadband providers.

Working closely with West Sussex County Council, Horsham District Council and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), the new deployment forms part of the UK government’s £5bn Project Gigabit, whose mission is to bring gigabit broadband to every corner of the UK. This is Virgin Media O2’s first involvement in a DCMS residential broadband voucher scheme and is the largest of its kind in West Sussex.

It is available to thousands of homes and small businesses in West Steyning, Upper Beeding and Bramber, where current broadband speeds are below the national average, and where availability and speed currently compare badly to larger local conurbations such as Worthing and Shoreham-by-Sea just over five miles away. The average broadband speed in the area is 43.8Mbps, but many premises experience much slower connections. Virgin Media’s Gig1 service will provide a boost to broadband speeds by offering services up to 25 times faster.

“This opportunity is one of a kind. Without it, the area may have to wait years for an equivalent gigabit-capable broadband service. I encourage everyone who is minded to pledge their voucher to Virgin Media O2 to sign up and unlock the public funding that will help to make these exciting plans a reality”
Steve Waight, West Sussex County Council

“I am delighted that Virgin Media has chosen to launch its first ever residential gigabit vouchers scheme in Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding. Residents and small businesses locally are set to benefit from technology that can offer the fastest, most reliable broadband speeds, which will make all the difference to living, working and schooling, as well as running businesses and retail, including from home,” remarked Steve Waight, West Sussex County Council cabinet member responsible for digital infrastructure.

“This opportunity is one of a kind. Without it, the area may have to wait years for an equivalent gigabit-capable broadband service. I encourage everyone who is minded to pledge their voucher to Virgin Media O2 to sign up and unlock the public funding that will help to make these exciting plans a reality.”

Virgin Media O2 is inviting residents in the designated areas to register their interest so that gigabit broadband vouchers can be used, alongside private investment from the company, to help connect them to broadband speeds of up to 1.1Gbps, which would be one of the UK’s fastest. Businesses can also apply for vouchers as part of the scheme.

Commenting on its role in the scheme, Rob Evans, managing director of fixed network expansion at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re spearheading the UK’s broadband charge with the nation’s largest gigabit network that is expanding to new areas each day. Our mission is to upgrade the UK, and this voucher scheme, combined with our continued private investment, will help to bring the benefits of next-generation digital infrastructure to harder-to-reach areas.

“We urge residents in West Sussex to get involved and register their interest so that Virgin Media O2 can bring gigabit connectivity to West Sussex communities as quickly as possible.”

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