Virgin claims UK’s largest gigabit switch-on

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UK multiplay operator Virgin Media has completed what it says is the nation’s biggest ever gigabit switch-on with nearly 3 million homes in London and across Northern Ireland now able to benefit from next-generation connectivity.

Residents living in the areas can now make the most of Virgin Media’s Gig1 broadband, which it says is more than 17 times faster than the national average with speeds of 1,104Mbps.

The launch takes Virgin Media’s total gigabit footprint to 6.8 million homes, representing 45 per cent of its network, and means that more than 16 million people in the UK now have access to this future-proof service. These latest switch-ons are part of Virgin Media’s plan to bring gigabit broadband to its entire network of more than 15 million homes by the end of 2021, helping to deliver more than half of the Government’s longer-term broadband ambition.

To coincide with the launch of these services, new analysis from Virgin Media has revealed that gigabit broadband could unlock an opportunity worth more than £11 billion a year in saved working hours to the national economy.

The Gigabit Opportunity report looks at how advances in connectivity have transformed our lives in recent years. It highlights how gigabit broadband can remove barriers to remote working, enable the next wave of connected home devices and support new technological innovations.

With around half of the population working remotely according to figures published by the ONS, the report reveals that 80 per cent of homeworkers are losing time to slow broadband with the average remote worker wasting up to 11 minutes per day – equivalent to four full working days since the start of lockdown in March.

Over the Covid lockdown and restrictions period so far, this lost time is worth more than £7 billion. The report identifies how the widespread adoption of next-generation broadband could help claw back millions of lost working hours, helping to boost labour productivity levels and create an economic opportunity worth nearly £1 billion per month.

As businesses continue to adopt cloud technology applications and services – which increasingly rely upon fast, reliable connectivity – the importance of ultrafast and gigabit broadband will increase and slow broadband will become a bigger drag on the economy. While broadband networks have collectively held up well over the lockdown period, despite surges in demand, the research suggests slow and unreliable connection speeds are hampering remote workers’ productivity.

“It has never been clearer that our services play a vital role in supporting people’s everyday lives and powering the economy,” declared Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer at Virgin Media. “The nation needs next-generation connectivity and we’re delivering.”

“Our ambitious target will see us roll-out gigabit speeds across our entire network of more than 15 million homes by the end of next year. We’re on track to deliver that promise with homes in London and Northern Ireland the latest to gain access to blisteringly-fast Gig1 services.”

“As our rollout continues at a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else, whatever the future holds, we’re keeping our customers and the country connected to what’s next.”

“The rollout of ultrafast broadband is vital for London’s future: it will create jobs, stimulate growth and give a much-needed boost to businesses at a crucial time,” added Sadiq Khan, The Mayor of London.

“As Mayor, I’m proud we’re making real progress on London’s worst ‘not-spots’ – including getting mobile coverage on the Underground, starting with the Jubilee Line.”

“It’s great news that Virgin Media is continuing to invest in London and ensuring six million Londoners can access gigabit speeds.”

Virgin Media first launched gigabit broadband services in September 2019 claiming to have become the UK’s largest gigabit broadband network earlier in 2020. Currently, 97 per cent of its broadband customers already take speeds of 100Mbps or more with an average network speed of 166Mbps which is more than 2.5x the national average.

Recent analysis by thinkbroadband shows that of the top 20 local authorities for gigabit coverage in the UK, 18 are served by Virgin Media’s Gig1 broadband. The Government has set a target for all UK premises to have access to gigabit speeds by 2025.

Virgin Media notes that Covid-19 has accelerated moves towards digital technology which will benefit from hyperfast speeds, with research from Virgin Media finding just one in five (19 per cent) home workers wants to return to the office full time. Despite this, nearly half (47 per cent) of home workers have had to turn off their video in a meeting because of poor broadband connectivity, with a third (33 per cent) indicating that colleagues have been late or had to skip a meeting entirely as a result of connectivity issues.

Over the first 10 weeks of lockdown, Virgin Media households downloaded an extra 325GB of data on average, making use of their ultrafast speeds.

Virgin Media’s gigabit-capable network in the UK passes more than 15 million UK premises and is now available in areas across the UK, including Southampton, Manchester, Reading, Birmingham, Coventry, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow, as well as London and across Northern Ireland.

Virgin Media, through its Project Lightning programme, is also continuing to expand its ultrafast network to more homes and businesses across the UK with 2.4 million premises passed since the project began.


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