Quadruple-play communications giant Virgin Media has announced that it is to invest £3 billion in its UK fibre-optic broadband network, increasing its reach to a further four million households and businesses across the country.
Formed in 2006 as a merger between fibre-optic competitors Telewest and NTL, taking its name from NTL's 2004 acquisition of internet service provider Virgin.net, Virgin Media offers fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) broadband connectivity at speeds of up to 152Mb/s - roughly double that of rival VDSL-based fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) services like BT's Infinity - along with cable TV, plain-old telephone service (POTS) and mobile connectivity. Its reach is limited, however, to around 13 million premises around the nation, and it has traditionally shied away from expanding its network.
Today's announcement changes that, with the company planning a investment of £3 billion to expand its fibre-optic reach to a total of 17 million households by 2020. The company claims that its plans will see 6,000 new jobs created during the expansion, including 1,000 apprenticeships, and will result in an £8 billion benefit to the national economy.
'Millions of homes and businesses will soon be able to benefit for the first time from broadband speeds at least twice as fast as those available from the other major providers,
' crowed Virgin Media's chief executive officer Tom Mockridge of the move. 'Consumers and business owners who want to make the switch to better broadband speeds now have an alternative; you can call on Virgin Media to "Cable My Street,"
' he added, in reference to the interest-registration portal
launched by the company to support the programme.
The investment has the support of prime minister David Cameron, who stated 'I welcome this substantial investment from Virgin Media
' and that 'these 6,000 new jobs and apprenticeships will mean financial security and economic peace of mind for thousands more hardworking families across the country.
The programme, dubbed Project Lightning, will target areas where BT is the sole provider for telephony services - and, given Virgin Media's requirement for a return on investment, will likely exclusively include urban and suburban regions, with sparsely-populated rural areas almost certain to be skipped.