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Virgin Media heralds London and Northern Ireland Giga-switch-on

Liberty-owned cableco Virgin Media has enabled 1-Gbps services for a further 3 million premises.

2.6 million of those are in London, with the other 400k spread across Northern Ireland. It represents a huge increase in the reach of Virgin Media’s Gigabit-capable broadband network, which now covers 6.8 million homes, or 45 percent of its total footprint.

According to the company, it means that 16 million people can now connect at speeds of up to 1.1 Gbps, which it says is 17 times faster than the national average. It’s also a big jump from the average speed of 166 Mbps that the majority of Virgin Media’s customers experience today.

“Our ambitious target will see us roll-out Gigabit speeds across our entire network of more than 15 million homes by the end of next year. We’re on track to deliver that promise with homes in London and Northern Ireland the latest to gain access to blisteringly-fast Gig1 services,” said Virgin Media CEO Lutz Schüler, in a statement late on Wednesday.

“As our rollout continues at a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else, whatever the future holds, we’re keeping our customers and the country connected to what’s next,” he added.

Well, for most telcos, the immediate future holds the promise of even greater demand for bandwidth, with England entering a new national lockdown that will last for at least four weeks, as the country grapples with the runaway increase in new coronavirus infections.

Unlike the last lockdown, which spanned spring and summer, this one takes place when the weather is colder and the days shorter, which probably equates to more people spending more of their time indoors, looking for distractions. This is in addition to those who will once again be required to work from home.

On that note, to coincide with its Giga-switch-on-a-thon, Virgin Media released a report that claims slow broadband meant the average home worker has lost 11 minutes of productivity per day since March.

Based on the average salary and the fact that, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 46.6 percent of the working population has been working from home, that lost time is worth £7.1 billion, Virgin Media said.

“It has never been clearer that our services play a vital role in supporting people’s everyday lives and powering the economy. The nation needs next-generation connectivity and we’re delivering,” Schüler said.

“The rollout of ultrafast broadband is vital for London’s future,” chimed in London mayor Sadiq Khan. “It will create jobs, stimulate growth and give a much-needed boost to businesses at a crucial time.”

Meanwhile, Virgin Media isn’t stopping at 1-Gbps broadband. In September, the company revealed it had managed to reach peak throughput of 2.2 Gbps in a live trial on its DOCSIS 3.1-based HFC network in Thatcham, south-east England.

However, the connection speed was arguably not the most interesting aspect of that particular milestone. What jumped out of that announcement was that Virgin Media was able to carry out the upgrade without digging up any cables. Provided the technological breakthrough is scalable, it provides the company with an affordable means of keeping pace with fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).

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