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Virgin Media Scoop £24m Greater Manchester Full Fibre Project

Monday, March 16th, 2020 (4:25 pm) - Score 3,770
fibre optic green cables from top right

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has officially chosen UK ISP Virgin Media to deliver on their Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) project, which aims to deploy “up to” 2,700km of new Gigabit speed fibre network to serve 1,700 public sector sites across the city-region (up from the 1,300 originally proposed).

The new wholesale Dark Fibre network, which is supported by £23.8m from the UK Government’s Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) programme, eventually hopes to encourage further private sector investment of up to £250m (i.e. ISPs could use it to help extend their own gigabit focused Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband networks).

Under the plans it’s expected that the new network from Virgin Media’s business division will deliver fibre optic connectivity to more than 1,500 public service sites in Bury, Bolton, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Trafford and Wigan. In addition, more than 180 public sites in Salford and Manchester will see their connectivity upgraded.

Some of the funding (c.£2.5m) will also help to support the existing Cooperative Network Infrastructure (CNI) scheme in Tameside, which is currently being harnessed by Virgin Media and other ISPs. Apparently a further 36 public sites will be connected through the CNI.

All told this new investment, plus existing local authority investments in digital infrastructure (part of the wider ‘Digital Blueprint for Greater Manchester’), is said to make this “the UK’s largest” LFFN programme.

Matt Warman MP, UK Broadband Minister, said:

“We are going to help improve communities across the UK with world-class infrastructure and our £23 million investment in Greater Manchester will give hundreds of public buildings the fastest broadband available. This will bring huge social benefits and attract further commercial funding to boost the region’s £3 billion digital sector.”

Peter Kelly, MD of Virgin Media Business (VMB), said:

“Manchester is an enormously important centre for Virgin Media, a gigabit city and the place our Project Lightning network expansion programme first started.

Today’s investment will build on our proud connection to the city and bring next-generation connectivity to Greater Manchester, giving the city region the best digital infrastructure in the UK.”

The Blueprint also set out many other priorities, including ensuring that everyone in the region can get online, gain access to relevant public services and it commits to helping Greater Manchester residents become confident internet users (skills training etc.). As part of that VMB has committed to directly create 20 apprenticeships in the region, as well as investing in digital and STEM skills for young people.

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, said:

“This is a huge achievement for Greater Manchester’s public sector and really demonstrates the value of collaboration. Full Fibre will supercharge our digital capacity and help our public sector sites to continue delivering the best possible services to residents across our city-region.

We are also minimising the costs for all providers to invest in Greater Manchester through our Full Fibre Prospectus. We are committed to making it as easy as possible for all to providers to invest in digital connections that benefit our businesses and communities.

As well as revolutionising our public services, it will give a huge boost to Greater Manchester’s towns and cities, cementing our position as one of the leading digital city-regions in Europe.”

At this point it’s worth noting that Virgin Media’s consumer division has already deployed DOCSIS 3.1 technology across their existing network in Manchester, which has made speeds of 1Gbps+ possible for homes (note: much of this uses their older Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) network and upstream performance remains limited to just 50Mbps).

Otherwise work to complete the new full fibre network for public sector sites is expected to be completed with “minimal disruption” (i.e. around 97% of the new infrastructure will be provided via existing ducting) over the “next 12 months.” Greater Manchester local authorities will also help by simplifying and aligning regulations across the boroughs, thus making it easier for operators to upgrade the region.

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Mark Jackson
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. Avatar CarlT says:

    Given how heavy Manchester is with Virgin Media fibre from metropolitan networks, backbone and access networks a good move. I’m sure VM could provide a very competitive quote given how much infrastructure they have present in the city.

  2. Avatar Bowdon says:

    So does this mean if a person is already within reach of the VM network i.e. can order the docsis 3.0 and eventually docsis 3.1, that there is no chance of FTTP coming?

    1. Avatar CarlT says:

      It means nothing for consumers for right now.

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