Virgin Media Project Lightning is turning up the fibre wick with the latest two announcements. Recently Virgin Media indicated its project was likely to deliver 1 million premises passed by FTTP (Fibre to the Premises) with another 3 million premises seeing the more traditional DOCSIS network.
The City of Chester is already doing fairly well for FTTP, with 7% coverage from Openreach, but with Virgin Media announcing a plan to deliver a FTTP network to 45,000 homes and businesses in Chester and the surrounding area this is going to jump a lot, the exact figure will depend on how much of the surrounding area outside the city itself is included. We do know they plan to start the roll-out in Blacon and Huntington.
Wrexham is the second area due to see a large roll-out of FTTP, the announced 24,000 homes means if the area fits within the local authority boundary coverage will rise to around 42% at speeds of 300 Mbps and faster. The large industrial estate outside Wrexham already has extensive Openreach FTTP coverage via the SuperfastCymru project. This fibre foray into Wrexham also marks the first Project Lightning expansion in Wales.
"I am absolutely delighted at Virgin Media's announcement of their investment in an entirely new broadband network in Wrexham. It is a huge vote of confidence in Wrexham and its future. This is a private sector investment of enormous significance. It will further increase Wrexham's appeal as a location for business and is a massive boost for jobs and growth. Both businesses and individual consumers will benefit.
When I put forward the case for Virgin Broadband and Project Lightning to come to Wrexham in a Select Committee hearing to its Chief Executive, Tom Mockridge, at the end of last year, I was confident Wrexham had an excellent case for this investment in its future. I am very grateful indeed that Virgin Media has shared my enthusiasm and have worked so well with Lee Robinson and his Economic Development Team at Wrexham Council to make this happen."Ian Lucas MP, Member of Parliament for Wrexham
The fastest product commonly sold by Virgin Media is the up to 200 Mbps download service, but for business and home works in many areas a 300 Mbps option is available and once various upgrades are finished with the Virgin Media network we don't doubt that the 300 Mbps will appear, and much faster is likely before 2019 as a roll-out of DOCSIS 3.1 in existing cable areas will see speeds going ever higher.
For coverage in areas where we know for certain that Project Lightning is delivering FTTP we will flag it as FTTP coverage, and while Openreach is being caught rapidly by Hyperoptic in terms of FTTP footprint these two will soon be fighting it out with Virgin Media to wear the crown for the largest pure fibre network in the UK. 1 million FTTP premises may only be around 3.4% of the UK, but competition may spur others on to deliver more and depending on the level of overlap once Project Lightning completes we might be looking at 8-10% national FTTP coverage, and the more technology neutral ultrafast broadband definition running at 65 to 75%.