Virgin Media has announced a £3 billion investment to expand its network, with the support of parent company Liberty Global, giving up to 4 million additional homes and businesses access to Virgin Media’s ultra-fast broadband network. The company claims ‘Project Lightning’ will be the single largest investment in broadband digital infrastructure in the country for more than a decade.
This network expansion is planned to take five years and is expected to directly employ around 6,000 people (including 1,000 apprentices) within Virgin Media and its construction and technology partners.
Virgin promises that this investment in the UK’s communications infrastructure will have a substantial effect on the wider economy, due to the long supply chain required to deliver such a large and complex engineering project, which will result in further indirect job creation and consumer spending increases.
The Project Lightning announcement marks a five-year transformation of Virgin Media to extend its existing position as ‘always faster’ to more areas as an alternative to BT’s network, as Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO, explains: “In virtually all of the areas we have identified for expansion, BT is the only option available right now. 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.”
Customers switching to Virgin Media’s new ultra-fast network could double the top speed currently available to them (up to 152mbs), the company claims., allowing consumers to do more online simultaneously. The value users place on this speed increase will result in an expected total net benefit to consumers—after having paid the costs of the upgrade—of around £1.6 billion between now and 2030.
Mike Fries, Liberty Global CEO, commented: “Our next-generation fibre-rich networks reach 50 million households across Europe, enabling our customers to discover and experience the endless possibilities of the digital world. After a record operating performance, Project Lightning is a significant investment that demonstrates the confidence we have in Virgin Media and the UK as a place to do business.”
Consumers will also benefit from greater choice over their broadband and pay TV network supplier. This competition between networks has been shown to improve outcomes for consumers by around £650 million over the same period, Virgin Media has claimed, through both reduced prices and increased quality of the network operators’ offers.
Virgin Media promises its network expansion will also positively impact business users, who will receive faster broadband, delivering a benefit in the form of greater labour productivity. Together with the expected productivity benefits accruing to Virgin Media’s home internet users, this benefit is anticipated to be worth at least £100 million to the UK economy between now and 2030, the company reports.