Virgin Media Adds FTTP to ‘Project Lightning’

Virgin Media, the U.K.’s largest MSO, is adding a bit more fiber to its network diet.

The operator, now owned by Liberty Global, said it will deploy fiber-to-the-premises to at least a quarter of the 4 million additional homes and businesses tied to “Project Lightning,” an initiative introduced last year.

Virgin Media said it has already started to deploy FTTP in Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire, with work expected to start soon in  West Yorkshire, Devon and East Sussex. The MSO noted that its using “narrow trenching” and other engineering techniques to deploy FTTP in high-demand areas costs that are lower and at a pace that is more rapid than traditional fiber buildouts.

With the planned expansion, Virgin Media said it expects to have 17 million homes connected to its network by 2019. The MSO said it’s adding FTTP to the mix amid a recent finding from regulator Ofcom that the U.K. has the lowest proportion of fiber connections running directly to homes and businesses of any country that’s part of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

The MSO said its updated plan “are a significant boost to the UK’s ambitions to become a ‘fibre nation’.”

Its HFC network, which represents most of its footprint, today offers downstream speeds of up to 200 Mbps for residential customers and up to 300 Mbps for businesses.

Virgin Media said Project Lightning has already connected 250,000 new premises, and has created 2,100 jobs in the UK. This year, it expects to connect 500,000 new premises, and create another 500 jobs.

“Our £3bn investment to bring ultrafast 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,” Virgin Media CEO tom Mockridge said in a statement.