Virgin Media set for major rural FTTP investment

Virgin Media set for major rural FTTP investment

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Virgin Media is expected to be the next company to announce a major investment in full fibre broadband as it seeks to expand its reach from primarily urban areas into more suburban and rural parts of the UK.

The Financial Times reports the group's parent firm Liberty Global is seeking to establish a new joint venture to build a fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) network that will aim to connect millions of homes outside big cities with gigabit-capable broadband.

Although the firm had not made any official announcement and plans are said to still be at an early stage, sources close to Liberty Global told the newspaper the new company would look to compete directly with Openreach and the range of alternative fibre providers.

The new network would be built using Openreach's existing ducts and poles and would look to increase the number of options in the FTTP sector at a time when there is growing pressure to expand the UK's access to ultrafast broadband.

New prime minister Boris Johnson recently called for the UK to greatly speed up its plans for this technology, describing plans to connect every home and business to full fibre by 2033 as "laughably unambitious".

Instead, he said the country should be targeting 2025 as the date for FTTP to be available nationwide, though he has not yet offered any details on how this would be achieved, or where the necessary funding would come from.

Virgin's efforts to expand its footprint into the half of the country where it currently has no presence - which are predominantly rural locations and smaller towns - could indicate a further ramping up of efforts from the industry to be more ambitious with their rollouts.

With Virgin set to join the likes of Gigaclear, Hyperoptic, CityFibre and TalkTalk in developing FTTP networks, greater competition for Openreach should help stimulate investment and ensure new networks reach as much of the UK as possible.

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