Michael Leckie/Virgin Media

Virgin Media O2 gigabit capability covers more than half of UK network footprint

Latest gigabit switch-on from newly merged cable provider sees a further 1.5 million homes added to its network, allowing customers to access average broadband speeds of 1.13Mbps, said to be four times faster than the national average

Less than a fortnight after announcing its intention to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre-to-the premises (FTTP), with completion in 2028, Virgin Media O2 revealed it had added one-and-a-half million homes to its gigabit network, reaching a connectivity tipping point of more than half of its footprint now able to access its top-end broadband offers.

Virgin Media claims its next-generation Gig1 broadband service, with average download speeds of 1.13Gbps, is the fastest available from a major broadband provider in the UK – and four times quicker than the national average.

Virgin Media O2 has upgraded its network in locations across the UK, with residents in towns and cities such as Bournemouth, Bristol, Northampton, Sunderland, Wolverhampton, Wigan and York now able to access next-generation connectivity.

More than eight million homes in all four UK nations are able to access Virgin Media’s Gig1 service, making the operator the largest gigabit broadband provider in the UK. Virgin Media O2 said that by the end of 2021, it would deliver gigabit broadband speeds across its entire network of more than 15 million homes.

“We are upgrading the UK to next-generation connectivity and [have hit] another important milestone with more than half of our network now able to access gigabit speeds,” said Virgin Media O2 chief executive officer Lutz Schüler.

“As the UK’s largest gigabit broadband provider today, with a clear plan to connect our entire network to these speeds by the end of the year, we’ll be delivering most of the government’s broadband target ahead of schedule. Our continued investment is propelling the country up gigabit league tables and providing consumers with the connectivity they need both now and in future.”

“It is crucial that any investment into the broadband infrastructure also boosts reliability, as customers don’t just need fast internet, they need stable connections that don’t let them down”
Ernest Doku, Uswitch.com

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at price comparison service Uswitch.com, said the fact that Virgin Media O2 was planning to roll out these speeds to all customers by the end of this year was a reflection of being able to support the growth in concurrent usage, as well as setting the stage for the connected home.

“The roll-out of ultrafast speeds to a further 1.5 million homes is a huge boost to Virgin Media O2 customers, as more people find themselves relying on this level of connectivity,” he said.

“It is crucial that any investment into the broadband infrastructure also boosts reliability, as customers don’t just need fast internet, they need stable connections that don’t let them down. Continuous developments from alternative providers are pushing Virgin Media O2 to strive to be the best on speed as well as become more challenging on cost, which is a great result for consumers.”

Virgin’s FTTP upgrade plan is designed to bolster its long-term network strategy, fuel future connectivity innovation for consumers and businesses, and create options to potentially pursue the broadband wholesale market in the UK.

Even though it claims the fastest speeds at scale in the UK, Virgin Media O2 said it would upgrade the cable element of its fibre-rich network and make use of “cutting-edge” full-fibre technology that is capable of delivering symmetrical 10Gbps download and upload speeds, with the upgrade plan covering 14.3 million cable premises, after taking into account the operator’s existing 1.2 million FTTP homes.

The company said it would continue to maintain and develop its existing cable network during the upgrade period, which includes meeting its 2021 gigabit targets and utilising the network’s multigigabit capability to deliver speeds above 2Gbps in the future. This, it said, will be achieved through the combination of DOCISIS 3.1 cable and FTTP technology over the coming years.

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