Michael Leckie / Virgin Media
Virgin Media has taken a huge competitive step up by hitting its target of gigabit capability to all of its customers ahead of schedule at the end of 2021.
The operator says the upgrade, completed in two years, is the UK’s fastest-ever national gigabit roll-out and confirms the company as the UK’s largest gigabit provider, more than twice the size of its nearest competitor. It adds that it is the only major UK internet service provider to have completed a gigabit upgrade programme at this scale without needing lengthy construction work.
As it established its new brand in the summer of 2021, Virgin Media O2 said it would continue the work carried out by the fixed asset provider in accelerating gigabit broadband throughout the country and reaffirmed its committed to invest at least £10bn over the next five years to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), with completion in 2028.
The company said investing in the new network would 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. Its upgrade plan covers 14.3 million cable premises, after taking into account the operator’s existing 1.2 million FTTP homes.
The operator completed its full gigabit roll-out after switching on 1.13Gbps speeds to a final 1.1 million homes and hence offering the capability to all of its 15.5 million premises. This move was described by Virgin Media O2 chief executive officer Lutz Schüler as catapulting the UK’s digital infrastructure forward by a decade and forcing rivals to up their game.
“Just two years ago, we set out to spearhead the UK’s gigabit revolution and today we’ve delivered,” said Schüler. “As the country’s largest gigabit provider by far, we are the driving force behind widespread gigabit availability four years ahead of the government’s target. Having reached this major milestone in just two years, we are doubling down on our mission to upgrade the UK by continuing to innovate and invest in our network to support the technologies of tomorrow.”
The news that Virgin has completed full gigabit capability has been well received within the analyst community. Uswitch.com broadband expert Ernest Doku said that bringing speeds of up to 1.130Gbps to its 15.5 million customers was a massive achievement for Virgin Media O2, but that overall there was still a long way to go for the rest of the country to hit the government’s 2025 broadband target.
“Openreach has a long way to go to catch up, recently hitting six million premises able to receive gigabit speeds nationwide – but they are on track to upgrade 25 million homes by the end of 2026,” Doku added. “Virgin Media O2 is certainly keeping the pressure on its rivals with these latest developments.”
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