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Virgin Media UK Extends Ultrafast Broadband Network in Scotland

Friday, March 23rd, 2018 (1:12 pm) - Score 2,263

Cable operator Virgin Media have announced that Project Lighting has so far extended their 350Mbps capable broadband and TV network to 100,000 extra premises in Scotland and they “plan to connect thousands” more in 2018, although oddly they aren’t saying how many more.

Overall the £3bn network extension aims to reach an additional 4 million premises across the United Kingdom by around the end of 2019 or 2020, which should extend their overall coverage to roughly 60%+ of the country (a total of 17 million premises). Some 2 million of those extra premises will be via FTTP, while the rest should extend Virgin Media’s traditional Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) based EuroDOCSIS cable network.

Scotland represents a fairly small part of Virgin Media’s UK network and in total they only cover over 1 million premises across the country, although today we learn that some of the next areas to benefit will include Bathgate; Bonnyrigg; Cranhill; Joppa; Jordanhill; Kilbirnie; Kilmarnock; Shettleston; and Stepps.

The plans were made public at a Virgin Media event in Edinburgh, which was attended by Fergus Ewing MSP, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, as well as local authority representatives from across the region. This is important because VM also used the opportunity to call for changes in order to make their job easier.

Key Issues and Requirements

* Create a new ‘notification’ wayleaves regime so that absentee landlords cannot block leaseholder access to broadband;

* Introduce long-term business rates relief for all new broadband assets for the lifetime of full fibre rollout;

* Provision, in the proposed new Planning Bill, that new homes should have access to multiple ultrafast networks not just BT’s;

* An ability to be flexible in our use of narrow trenching units;

* Greater flexibility to operate multiple teams on site at any one time.

The proposal for a “lifetime” relief on business rates is interesting, although we’re a little unclear about whether they mean for the duration of the new “full fibre rollout” or for the overall lifetime of the network itself. Meanwhile the UK government is implementing a 5 year holiday for business rates on new fibre.

Similarly we like the idea of all new homes being required to provide “access to multiple ultrafast networks,” although this could create problems for smaller builds, as well as in areas where only one physical ultrafast network is actually available. Managing the competing interests of multiple operators might also create a few headaches for developers.

At present the UK government has already implemented a related EU directive (here), which requires that all newly constructed buildings (those that gained permission after the 31st December 2016) – except small / personal projects (e.g. building a single house) – are “equipped with a high-speed-ready in-building physical infrastructure, up to the network termination points” (e.g. building plenty of spare space in cable ducts).

Julie Agnew, VM’s Scotland Regional Director, said:

“Scotland has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of our Project Lightning programme and we are planning to connect thousands more homes and businesses this year. We hope that working more closely with the Government and local authorities will help accelerate Scotland’s digital ambitions more effectively and efficiently.”

Fergus Ewing MSP, Scottish Government, said:

“I welcome this announcement by Virgin Media and I am encouraged by their promise to connect thousands more Scottish homes and businesses in 2018, building on their current rollout in Scotland. This reaffirms that our approach to our R100 programme is working.

By focusing our £600 million investment in Scotland’s rural areas, while creating the right environment to encourage the likes of Virgin Media to invest in our urban areas, we are ensuring that we meet our commitment to deliver 100% superfast broadband access across Scotland by the end of 2021.”

Otherwise today’s announcement is really more of a re-announcement because they already confirmed, back in 2016, that Project Lighting would ultimately result in their cable and fibre optic network being extended to reach a further 360,000 homes and businesses across Scotland (here). Hopefully the operator will stick to that plan but they’ve today chosen not to set any solid progress targets for 2018.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. Mark says:

    Seems strange they’re go for Bonnyrigg as that would mean bypassing a lot of other larger towns to get there.

    1. Ben says:

      Probably only stopping in Bonnyrigg on the way to the new 1000 home estate in Penicuik.

  2. Pete says:

    Not the first time VM’s network made no sense in the Edinburgh area, I lived in the Leith area for 2 years in a rental. I checked on VM’s website for fibre access since I was moving from one house under contract to this other…

    Low and behold the engineer turned up and told be that the network stopped the street over and that my building doesn’t have it… moved out 2 years later, 2 days before I left I get a VM letter though telling me that my build is now fibre enabled lol

    Mind you BT’s network is a joke as well in parts of Edinburgh as well, I checked some newer builds years back and they had 2-5mbps connections from the exchange which was fairly close by.

    I’m all for Openreach becoming a public asset again and setup as an agency that just proves wholesale access to a national best you can make network. All money’s from the service are ploughed straight back into the network to make it the best it can be.

    We dont allow private companies to run and control our road networks for profit, why should we do the same for another network which according to some figures brings in the same GDP share as the road network does.

    But anyway that’s just my feelings on the subject.

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