By Steve McCaskill
At least one quarter of the four million properties being added to Virgin Media's broadband network will be connected with pure fiber in what the company claims is the United Kingdom's single biggest deployment of fiber to the premise (FTTP) technology.
"Project Lightning" will increase Virgin Media's footprint from 12.9 million premises to 17 million by the end of 2019, with 500,000 homes and businesses added this year alone.
The majority of properties passed will be connected to the wider network using coaxial cables, which can currently deliver 200Mbps to homes and 300Mbps to SMBs. However the use of FTTP opens up the potential for even faster speeds of up to 10Gbps in the future.
Virgin Media has trialed FTP in Cambridgeshire and Leicestershire and will now roll out more pure fiber in West Yorkshire, Devon and East Sussex.
"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," said Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge, who took a thinly veiled dig at BT.
"While some companies talk a good game, Virgin Media is putting its money where its mouth is and laying fiber to the premise alongside our superior Hybrid Fixed Coaxial (HFC) network—delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds."
BT Openreach's superfast broadband network is powered by fiber to the cabinet (FTTC) technology which uses copper for the final few hundred meters of a connection, slowing down maximum speeds.
The company has pledged to deliver 'ultrafast' broadband to ten million premises by 2020 and to the 'majority of the UK' within the next ten years, however FTTP will only play a relatively minor role in this project, with G.Fast—which speeds up copper connections—the predominant technology used.
A number of other companies are however building and delivering FTTP services across the United Kingdom. CityFibre hopes to establish itself as a wholesale FTTP alternative to Openreach by targeting urban areas outside London. Hyperoptic covers a number of cities including the capital, and Gigaclear is connecting rural communities to fiber.
TalkTalk and Sky are also participating in a joint venture in York to see whether FTTP can be cost effectively deployed on a more wider scale across the United Kingdom.