Michael Leckie / Virgin Media

More than 90% of Virgin Media O2’s network now gigabit-ready

After switching on gigabit-capable services for 1.6 million more homes, UK cable provider claims to be within touching distance of enabling its entire network to access broadband download speeds of up to 1.13Gbps

With Lincoln, Bath, Lancaster, Fife, Huddersfield, Ipswich, Slough and Salisbury all now connected to its gigabit-capable network, Virgin Media O2 says 14.3 million homes across the UK can now access what it calls future-proof connections and that by the end of the year, it will connect its entire network of more than 15.5 million homes to gigabit speeds.

The company has committed to invest at least £10bn over the next five years to upgrade the UK and as it established its new brand in the summer of 2021, Virgin Media O2 said it would continue the work carried out by Virgin Media in accelerating gigabit broadband throughout the country.

In its latest move, it intends to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), with completion in 2028. The company said investing in the new network will bolster its long-term network strategy, fuel future connectivity innovation for consumers and businesses, and create options to potentially pursue the UK broadband wholesale market.

Even though it claims the UK’s fastest speeds at scale, Virgin Media O2 said that through its Project Lightning programme, it will 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 will 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 future. This, it said, will be achieved by combining DOCISIS 3.1 cable and FTTP technology over the coming years.

Virgin Media O2 also guaranteed that it would deliver speeds of 1.1Gbps across its entire network by the end of this year, meeting the UK government’s target to take connectivity at that speed to 85% of the UK population by 2025, four years ahead of schedule.

Customers taking the company’s Gig1 gigabit service, with average download speeds of 1,130Mbps, will be able to use Virgin Media’s Hub 4 gigabit capable router, which is its fastest to date and features intelligent Wi-Fi firmware to provide speedy and reliable connectivity throughout customers’ homes, boasting more antennae than its predecessor, so it can manage multiple devices at the same time around the home which can all share the gigabit speeds.

As part of the drive to upgrade its fixed network to full FTTP, Virgin Media O2 said it will be capable of delivering symmetrical 10Gbps download and upload speeds. Also, in a move that could boost end-user experiences of its network significantly, the firm announced at the end of October 2021 the launch of a Hub 5 Wi-Fi 6 router. The new device works alongside Virgin Media’s broadband network and is designed to power the next generation of connected devices, including modern smartphones, laptops and tablets.

Lutz Schüler, CEO at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re making great strides ahead in upgrading the UK and are within touching distance of bringing the benefits of future-proof gigabit broadband to everyone on our network. With our gigabit roll-out progressing at an unmatched pace, we’re building the next-generation broadband network that’s ready for the technology of tomorrow.”

Ernest Doku, broadband expert at broadband price comparison service Uswitch.com, commented: “It’s hugely impressive that 90% of the Virgin Media O2 network can now access gigabit speeds, and puts the company on track to upgrade their entire network by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Openreach is lagging far behind, with fewer than six million premises able to receive gigabit speeds nationwide.

“With threats that BT will ‘build like fury’, Virgin Media O2 is keeping the pressure on them with these latest developments. Ofcom’s recent announcement of ‘One Touch Switch’ will simplify the process of switching between networks when it is introduced in 2023.”

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