Advanced Television

Virgin Media plans gigabit roll-out

July 25, 2019

UK multiplay operator Virgin Media has unveiled what it describes as a “bold boost” to UK broadband with plans that will bring next-generation gigabit connections to its entire network by the end of 2021 – which it says will make it the UK’s largest and fastest widely available residential gigabit connectivity provider.

Providing nearly 15 million UK households with access to gigabit broadband speeds represents a significant step towards delivering the Government’s ambition to make reliable, gigabit-capable connections widely available over the coming years.

Virgin Media will introduce this next-generation service in cities across its national network later in the year, starting with Southampton, where the first customers trialling these speeds have already been connected.

The scale of the plan, and rapid expansion programme, will mean more than a million people will be able to access broadband speeds of 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) by the end of 2019, allowing them to take advantage of emerging consumer technologies such as cloud gaming and virtual reality entertainment as well as 8K video streaming across the home. Millions more homes are set to benefit next year when the service is expanded across the UK.

Virgin Media, through the backing of Liberty Global, has invested billions of pounds to expand its network and provide speed upgrades unmatched by other major providers, all while broadband usage has increased by almost 40 per cent in the last year.

Virgin Media is now rolling out next-generation broadband technology, known as DOCSIS 3.1, across its cable network which will bring faster, more reliable broadband speeds to customers’ homes. Gigabit broadband speeds will be available later in the year, with the capability to roll out multi-gigabit connections and further improvements over the next decade.

“This is a giant digital leap forward for the UK,” declared Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media. “Virgin Media has been the unparalleled speed leader for many years. Very soon, for the first time ever, millions of people right across the country will be able to experience hyperfast and reliable gigabit iInternet connections thanks to the latest technology and the power of our network.”

“This upgrade plan will see gigabit speeds rolled out at an unrivalled pace right across the country, bringing our customers the future-proof connections of tomorrow.”

“We welcome Virgin Media’s commitment to investing further in its network, providing gigabit speeds to millions more households,” added Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive. “This shows the race to roll out ultrafast speeds to people and businesses across the UK is really gathering pace.”

Virgin Media has the largest gigabit-capable network in the UK which currently passes nearly 15 million UK premises. The network consists of both fibre-rich cable and fibre connected directly to the premises, both of which can provide customers with gigabit speeds.

In February 2019, as further proof of its network innovation and broadband speed leadership, Virgin Media began trialling the UK’s fastest home broadband with a full fibre connection offering speeds of more than 8Gbps to homes in Cambridgeshire. The trial made use of EPON (Ethernet Passive Optical Network) technology – a global point-to-point network standard.

Selected Virgin Media customers are already trialling the new 1Gbps connection ahead of services going live later in the year. No changes to the line connecting the customer’s home are required to introduce services; trialists simply plug in a new router to benefit from the speeds.

Further details on the next Virgin Media gigacities as well as availability and pricing will be announced in the coming months.

Gigabit speeds are projected to add billions of pounds to the economy. According to research published by Virgin Media’s parent company, Liberty Global, from international management consulting firm, Arthur D. Little, the innovation spurred by the widespread availability of gigabit speeds will unlock a market of at least €250 billion per year in Europe by 2025.

By providing ultra-high capacity, reliable, secure, resilient and low latency networks, gigabit connections will unlock significant growth in new technologies over the next five to 10 years. Innovative technologies such as cloud-based gaming, 8K streaming, remote health telemonitoring and advanced telepresence, which could allow consumers to go ‘virtual reality shopping’ or watch live broadcasts of holographic sports events, are amongst those set to benefit.

With Virgin Media’s hyperfast gigabit connection, ultra-high definition 4K films and TV programmes, very large files and 360 degree videos can be downloaded almost instantaneously, even with multiple devices using the connection simultaneously. The connection is almost 20 times faster than the UK average broadband connection meaning that users can, for example:

  • Download a high definition (HD) film (5GB) in just 42 seconds, compared to more than 13 minutes on the UK’s average connection.
  • Download an Ultra High Definition 4K film (20GB) in less than 3 minutes, compared to nearly an hour (52 minutes) on the UK’s average connection.
  • Download a chart-topping PlayStation 4 game, for example FIFA 18 (45GB), in just six and a half minutes, compared to nearly 2 hours on the UK’s average connection.

Since the start of Virgin Media’s Project Lightning network expansion programme, more than 1.7 million premises have been added to the provider’s network – more than the build of all the alternative broadband infrastructure providers combined.

Liberty Global has already successfully launched gigabit cities in in Germany, Poland and the Netherlands using DOCSIS 3.1 technology.

“It’s great to see others working to upgrade their existing networks, but only full fibre to the premises technology can deliver the future-proof connectivity the UK needs,” commented Clive Selley, Openreach’s CEO.

“We’re making full fibre broadband available to 20,000 homes and businesses each week and we’re hugely ambitious about helping the Government upgrade the entire nation.”

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