Virgin Media continues Project Lightning expansion

4 September 2018   By Jo Bailey

Virgin Media celebrate 50,000 new connections in Glasgow, but elsewhere expansion is moving somewhat slowly.

As of the end of August, Virgin Media have connected just short of 50,000 homes and businesses in and around Glasgow to their ultrafast network. Offering download speeds of up to 362Mb, they say this is 18 times faster than the average speed for this area.

With this rapid connection, Virgin Media say customers can download HD movies in under two minutes, or a 2GB video game in less than 10 minutes.

So far, Virgin's ultrafast expansion has connected an additional 120,000 premises in Scotland. Overall, more than one million properties in Scotland have the option to access the Virgin network which the provider claims is 'Gigabit ready'.

virgin media super speed
© Virgin Media

Ultrafast connections coming soon

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As well as their successes in Glasgow, Virgin Media have announced a raft of new installations due to take place over the next 18 months. The locations mentioned specifically by the ISP include:

  • Thurmaston: Also announced at the end of August, ultrafast will soon be available in Thurmaston, Leicester, with 2,000 homes and businesses expected to get connected by the end of 2019.
  • Dronfield: Up to 10,000 homes and businesses in Dronfield, North East Derbyshire, will be able to benefit from the ultrafast connection. Work is already underway, say Virgin, with completion estimated by the end of 2019.
  • Burton on Trent: Scheduled also for completion by the end of 2019, Virgin is planning to connect up to 14,000 homes and businesses to its ultrafast service.
  • Carluke: Carluke in Scotland currently has a median download speed of just 17Mb. Virgin Media have announced that a connection to 6,000 premises will be in place by the end of 2019, offering up to 362Mb download speeds.

To date, Project Lightning has connected around 1.3 million premises. This has seen Virgin's subscriber numbers swell to a current base of approximately 5.16m.This is an increase of 30,000 in the last quarter alone, despite recent price rises.

Will Virgin step up their installation speed?

Although there are almost certainly more installations in the pipeline, announcing just 32,000 by the end of next year feels something of a drop in the ocean. With a target of four million by 2020, Virgin will have to step on the accelerator if they're going to stay on target.

On average, the project is installing around 500,000 customers a year, which will leave them sorely short of their projected numbers if they continue at this pace. Despite this, the company remains positive about the way they are moving forward.

Project Lightning rollout by quarter
Q2 2018 118,000
Q1 2018 111,000
Q4 2017 159,000
Q3 2017 147,000
Q2 2017 127,000
Q1 2017 102,000

Mike Fries, Chief Executive of Liberty Global, Virgin Media's parent company, commented that he saw no need to increase the speed of delivery. He stated that they 'like the page they are building at right now' and that they could 'easily ramp up' if they needed to.

He did mention that there would be some targeting of multi dwelling units (MDUs), which would undoubtedly add big numbers for less time and investment.

Virgin's fast as lightning expansion plans

Under the Project Lightning initiative, Virgin Media are aiming to connect four million additional properties by 2020, taking their network to a total of 17 million premises. The scheme, costing Virgin in the region of £3bn, first saw properties in Manchester connected to the network back in 2015.

Since the project inception, Virgin have worked with the Home Builders Federation to supply new build premises with fibre to the home connections. Despite continuing efforts, Project Lightning is not expected to complete until 2020, which means many homes are not serviced by Virgin just yet.

Their expansion plans are secondary to the UK Government's Superfast Broadband Programme, which has achieved the aim of connecting 95% of the country to fast fibre services. Superfast broadband, under this programme, is defined as 24Mb; significantly slower than the up to 350Mb available on some Virgin services.

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