Virgin Media 02 pledges full fibre upgrade by 2028
Written by: Richard Hook | Published:
Virgin Media & 02 logos on skyscape background Virgin Media 02 completed a £31bn merger in June

Recently merged Virgin Media O2 has announced plans to upgrade its entire network to full fibre by 2028

The company, which became the UK’s largest telecoms provider following a £31 billion merger in June, said the upgrade covering more than 15.5 million premises would “make it even stronger for the decades ahead”.

Chief executive Lutz Schuler claimed that Virgin Media was “stepping up” from plans to deliver speeds of 1.1 Gbps by the end of this year, pledging to deliver a full fibre ultrafast network within seven years.

The total planned investment, not including customer migration costs, is expected to be around £1.5bn, given that 1.2 million homes are already on Virgin Media 02’s fibre network. The company said its estimate is based on costs of £100 per premises, which it claims is “much lower than competing fibre build” because it will use its existing Virgin Media infrastructure.

Alongside plans to extend its full fibre offering, Schuler said the company was “looking at opportunities to enter the fixed wholesale market”. A single wholesale network (SWN) or a wholesale open access network (WOAN) can provide an alternative to competing mobile networks offering mobile broadband services in different areas and can often provide better signal, especially in rural areas.

The UK government has laid out plans to use wholesale networks to “upgrade the whole country to full fibre” and Ofcom has provided guidance on regulation of the business (leased lines, dark fibre) and residential (wholesale local access) markets from 2021.

Schuler said Virgin Media was looking at offering Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk access to its infrastructure including ducts and poles. "Any partner would get a speed advantage for their customers in the short term on the cable network and long term on the fibre network," he added.

Following the merger with 02 earlier this year, Virgin Media announced plans to extend its network as part of what it has called ‘Project Lightning’ and added a further 89,000 homes in the last quarter to take the total number of homes within its network to 2.5 million.

The announcement from Virgin Media 02 follows BT’s pledge to develop full-fibre across 25 million premises by the end of 2026.

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