Virgin Media plans UK broadband access roll out

UK cable MSO Virgin Media says it will invest £3 billion to reach another 4 million UK homes over the next five years. The extension of its "fiber rich" network will bring its total footprint to nearly 17 million premises passed by 2020. Virgin also claims the Project Lightning initiative will create 6,000 new jobs and boost the UK economy by £8 billion.

UK cable MSO Virgin Media says it will invest £3 billion ($4.6 billion) to reach another 4 million UK homes over the next five years. The extension of its "fiber rich" network will bring its total footprint to nearly 17 million premises passed by 2020. Virgin also claims the Project Lightning initiative will create 6,000 new jobs and boost the UK economy by £8 billion ($12.3 billion).

Virgin says it will use the new infrastructure to support Internet speeds of 152 Mbps, which it asserts is twice the rate available from "major competitors" such as BT, TalkTalk, and Sky (but is also well behind alternative providers such as Hyperoptic and community fiber-optic broadband efforts such as B4RN). The company also will be able to extend its Virgin Media Business offerings to additional small and medium-sized companies.

The service provider will take a page from Google Fiber's playbook with the "Cable My Street" initiative. Virgin says it will prioritize deployment of its new broadband access network based on how many homes and businesses in a particular area pre-register for service on the Cable My X webpages, one each for residents and businesses.

Virgin clearly has BT in its sights with the upgrade. "In virtually all of the areas we have identified for expansion, BT is the only option available right now," said Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media's CEO. "Its ageing copper telephony wires are not capable of the ultrafast connectivity that Virgin Media delivers. Soon we will offer unbeatable services to even more homes and businesses across the country."

Virgin's parent company, Liberty Global, owns other cable operators in the U.S. and Europe. Liberty has trials of DOCSIS 3.1 technology on tap in Europe later this year. Application of DOCSIS 3.1 would enable Virgin to support significantly higher downstream rates than 152 Mbps.

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