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Virgin Media Expands Into Leicestershire Villages

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Virgin Media says expansion is not just about large towns and cities, but villages too

Virgin Media’s ‘Project Lightning’ expansion programme is to reach six Leicestershire villages by early next year, adding 16,000 properties to its cable network.

The £3 billion project’s most high profile beneficiaries to date have been urban areas like Manchester and Nottingham, but four million homes and businesses are set to be covered over a five year period.

Once completed, Virgin Media’s reach will increase from 12.6 million premises to 17 million.

The villages of Blaby, Countesthorpe and Enderby will be the first to benefit from this latest rollout, with Whetstone, Narborough and Cosby to be added in 2016.

Virgin Media Leicestershire

Virgin Media Tivo 2“Expanding our network to villages such as Blaby and Enderby shows that Project Lightning is not just about building in big cities, we’re also investing to bring ultrafast broadband to towns and villages close to our existing network across the UK,” said Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge.

The company says progress is being speeded up by the ‘narrow-trenching’ technique which allows it to lay fibre using smaller trenches is twice as fast as the standard method and permits its engineers to cover 100 metres a day.

“The innovative use of narrow-trenching means that we’ll be laying fibre optic cable all the way to customers’ doorsteps, future-proofing their homes for tomorrow’s connectivity and rolling out network more quickly. We hope that we can count on government and local authority support to use this technique in more parts of the UK,” added Mockridge.

Project Lightning will target areas close to its current footprint and places where consumers and businesses register their interest. This means cities rather than rural areas are likely to benefit, whereas BT has connected two million homes and businesses not covered by commercial fibre rollouts thanks to the government-funded Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme.

However, Virgin Media claims its expansion will offer faster speeds and boost competition in areas already covered by BT. The Openreach network primarily uses Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology which uses existing copper wire for the final few hundred metres of the connection, delivering speeds of up to 76Mbps.

Virgin’s network offers up to 200Mbps, although it is worth noting that BT plans to rollout G.Fast across its infrastructure, potentially offering 500Mbps to the majority of the UK within a decade. To combat this, Liberty Global is testing technology that could result in 10Gbps speeds in the future.

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