HOOK, UK — Virgin Media, a provider of broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline services across the UK and Ireland, pledged to accelerate the UK’s rollout of fiber optic broadband direct to homes and businesses.

The ultrafast broadband provider will connect fiber to the premise (FTTP) to at least a quarter of the 4 million additional homes and businesses being added to the Virgin Media network, as part of its “Project Lightning” expansion plans. Backed by parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media will connect a total of 17 million premises to the network by 2019. This is the single largest investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure in more than a decade.

Ofcom recently reported that the UK has the lowest proportion of fiber connections running directly to homes and businesses (known as FTTP) of any OECD nation. The plans unveiled by Virgin Media today are a significant boost to the UK’s ambitions to become a “fiber nation.” As a result, Virgin Media becomes the UK’s largest wholly fiber broadband network in the UK. Today’s announcement marks the latest stage in a transformation of Virgin Media. The company is already extending its “always faster” network to more areas of the UK, as an alternative to the ageing copper telephony-based network offered by incumbent BT.

Superior Network
Virgin Media’s UK network offers the fastest widely-available speeds of up to 200 Mbps for consumers and 300 Mbps for businesses. Virgin Media has a Hybrid Fiber Coaxial (HFC) network in the UK which combines optical fiber and coaxial cable. The core network is fiber optic which provides ultra-fast broadband to the street cabinet. Broadband is then delivered to the majority of premises using the company’s superior coaxial cable powered by DOCSIS3 technology. Giving a significant boost to the UK’s digital economy, Virgin Media is committing to providing FTTP to at least one in four properties in its Project Lightning expansion.

Fiber Rollout
Virgin Media has already started to roll out FTTP in Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire with work expected to start soon in West Yorkshire, Devon and East Sussex. Using new engineering techniques such a narrow trenching, FTTP can be deployed at lower cost and more quickly in areas where demand is high.

Boosting the Economy and Creating Jobs
Project Lightning will deliver a significant boost to the UK. Estimates by economic consultancy Oxera state that Project Lightning will benefit the UK economy by an estimated $12 billion. Virgin Media expects that Project Lightning will be directly responsible for creating 6,000 new jobs, including 1,000 new apprentices.

Since Project Lightning launched in February 2015 Virgin Media has connected 250,000 new premises, and has created 2,100 jobs in the UK. During 2016 Virgin Media expects to connect 500,000 new premises, creating a further 500 jobs in the UK. Tom Mockridge, CEO of Virgin Media, said, “Our $4.5 billion investment to bring ultra-fast connectivity to more parts of the UK is not just about better broadband, it’s about future-proofing the country’s network infrastructure with the best and most modern technology.”