In a clear demonstration of the rapid roll-out of gigabit services to locations outside of the larger metropolitan areas in the UK, Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) has completed the first phase of work to bring full-fibre broadband to Doncaster in South Yorkshire, while just across to the east of northern England, wholesale-only fibre network operator MS3 Networks has expanded its full-fibre coverage to over 60,000 premises across Lincolnshire, including homes in Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire.
The Doncaster roll-out by VMO2 means residents can now access gigabit services for the first time, offering top speeds of 1.130 Gbps, a rating the provider said will be up to 20 times faster than the local average and “perfect” for households working remotely. Virgin Media’s services are now available locally, following a multi-million-pound investment from Nexfibre to build new full-fibre connections in the area.
Nexfibre is the result of a £4.5bn investment from VMO2 shareholders Liberty Global and Telefónica, alongside investment firm InfraVia Capital Partners. Its launch is designed to create the UK’s first national-scale fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) challenger to BT Openreach, boosting choice and competition in the market. Nexfibre will initially roll out fibre to five million homes not currently served by Virgin Media O2’s network by 2026, with the opportunity to expand to an additional two million homes. VMO2 aims to have a fibre footprint reaching 80% of the UK when coupled with its own fibre upgrade plans, which complete in 2028.
Commenting on what the deployment could mean to the region, Doncaster Central MP Rosie Winterton said: “I welcome the latest investment in Doncaster that will ensure my constituents have access to some of the fastest broadband speeds in the UK. It was great to meet with representatives from Virgin Media O2 to discuss the progress they have made so far, as well as the plans they have to make gigabit broadband available to even more residents in the area.”
“More than 5,000 homes and businesses in Doncaster can now feel the benefit of Virgin Media’s services – with packages that include everything from next-generation gigabit broadband to easy-to-use TV streaming and entertainment services,” added Julie Agnew, managing director of fixed network expansion at Virgin Media O2.
“These ultra-reliable full-fibre-to-the-home broadband connections come with speeds up to 20 times faster than the local average – providing local people with total peace of mind that whatever they’re doing online, their connection won’t slow them down.”
For its part, MS3 said its growing network will enable economic expansion across the Lincolnshire region by facilitating gigabit broadband speeds while delivering more choice of service provider to local people. MS3 offers fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) connectivity, which facilitates speeds of 1 Gbps, compared with the 80 Mbps available through the more common fibre-to-the-cabinet connectivity.
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It added that the North Lincolnshire communities that will benefit from MS3’s FTTP roll-out have historically endured poor connectivity, often excluding them from the digital economy. Boasting a network of over 30 ISP partners, the expansion facilitates more choice in broadband provider, with increased competition helping to drive down prices.
With expansion into Scunthorpe nearing completion, the company said the research it commissioned calculates that the finished network could add up to £9m to Scunthorpe’s GDP and create up to 100 local jobs. In addition to offering greater internet speeds, it said the roll-out could also offer savings to both local businesses and residents through MS3’s partnerships with ISPs across the area.
With the rise of homeworking, MS3 said companies are increasingly open to hiring from outside big cities. It cited a CIPD report showing 48% of employers that are “open to location” had recruited from a wider geography in 2022. MS3 is confident full-fibre broadband that can handle homeworking provides an excellent opportunity for North Lincolnshire to retain skilled workers and avoid “brain drain”, where university-educated young people leave in search of jobs.
“Supporting economic growth across regions that are at risk of digital exclusion is a hugely important part of our work at MS3,” said MS3 Networks CEO Guy Miller. “Access to full-fibre broadband not only attracts new businesses to an area, but also encourages local talent to stay, which is key in driving the economy of regions such as North Lincolnshire.”
“Fast, reliable broadband is vital for local people and businesses,” said Tim Mitchell, North Lincolnshire Council’s cabinet member for connectivity. “With the rise in people working from home, this superfast broadband opens up a world of opportunity for local people. It is also a key factor when attracting new businesses to the area and helping current ones grow. The council continues to work with leading companies like MS3 Networks to bring fast connections to local areas.”