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Virgin Media O2 Use Gigabit Broadband Vouchers to Cover Rural Areas

Monday, Jun 28th, 2021 (9:52 am) - Score 3,816

Telecoms and media giant Virgin Media (VMO2) has, for the first time, harnessed the UK Government’s Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme in order to extend their Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network to connect rural locations in West Sussex (England) – with residents in Steyning, Upper Beeding and Bramber being invited to participate.

As part of the Government’s £5bn Project Gigabit scheme, which aims to ensure that at least 85% of UK premises can access a gigabit-capable broadband network by the end of 2025, homes and businesses in remote rural communities are being offered vouchers (up to £3,500 for businesses or £1,500 for homes) to help them install such connectivity (assuming they aren’t already part of a future rollout plan).

Many ISPs are already making use of such vouchers, but until now VMO2 has preferred to focus on their commercial builds in urban areas. However, we should point out that this is not the first time that the operator has ventured into rural areas, with their community supported deployment across 12 villages in the Test and Dun Valleys of Hampshire and Wiltshire being a key example (here).

Since then Virgin Media has merged with O2 and as part of that they proposed to invest a further £10bn into their fibre and 5G mobile builds (here), which includes a plan to expand their gigabit-capable broadband network to reach another 1 million premises “within 12 months of the merger closing” (total of c.16 million). On top of that they hold an “ambition” to connect a further 7 million homes, which will take them further outside big cities and towns.

Suffice to say that it was only a matter of time before the operator started to harness gigabit vouchers too. The company says that their first project will be the “largest of its kind in West Sussex” and is available to “thousands of homes and small businesses” in West Steyning, Upper Beeding and Bramber, where “current broadband speeds are below the national average” (the average broadband speed in the area is said to be 43.8Mbps, which to be fair.. isn’t terrible).

Rob Evans, MD of Fixed Network Expansion at VMO2, said:

“We’re spearheading the UK’s broadband charge with the nation’s largest gigabit network that is expanding to new areas each day.

Our mission is to upgrade the UK and this voucher scheme, combined with our continued private investment, will help to bring the benefits of next-generation digital infrastructure to harder-to-reach areas. We urge residents in West Sussex to get involved and register their interest so that Virgin Media O2 can bring gigabit connectivity to West Sussex communities as quickly as possible.”

Matt Warman, Digital Infrastructure Minister, said:

“Our broadband voucher scheme is energising broadband firms to deliver ultra high-speed connections to the most hard-to-reach parts and I’m delighted to hear Virgin Media O2 has joined us and launched its first scheme in West Sussex.

There is up to £210 million worth of vouchers up for grabs across the UK and I’d encourage anyone looking for a broadband boost to apply.”

The reality here is that vouchers tend to require more of a demand-led deployment and the focus on rural communities (Ofcom’s Area 3 definition) means that VMO2’s move to harness them, while very welcome, isn’t likely to contribute too much to their overall network coverage. But it will be a useful way of testing their metal before beginning a much wider rollout into other parts of the UK.

Otherwise, people can visit www.virginmedia.com/gbvs to register their interest and request a voucher.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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10 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Meadmodj says:

    I am some what surprised that VMO2 have been granted vouchers for Steyning and Upper Beeding when these are already shown as Cityfibre Phase 2 and the OR roadmap implies that they will also be there within a few years. They currently the main part of these locations have a good OR Superfast coverage.

    It is the smaller hamlets and isolated premises around these West Sussex locations that need help (2-10 Mbps). I don’t think in priority terms this is a good use of the voucher fund. By all means branch out from the VM legacy along the south coast by using FTTP but surely these locations should not qualify.

    1. Avatar photo CarlT says:

      Is a £1,500 residential voucher going to make a dent in the costs of smaller hamlets and isolated premises?

      That’s a few poles or less than 20m of footpath duct.

  2. Avatar photo Sam says:

    It would be nice if they could do midhurst since petersfield and chichester both have virgin media!

    1. Avatar photo Aaron says:

      Believe me you don’t want to be connected to the same line as Petersfield / Liss / Waterlooville… To the point Virgin Media let me out of my contract 2 years early with a refund due to the amount of downtime.

      It’s off more than it’s on, your better off pushing for Openreach FTTP, the Petersfield exchange is on their list of upgrades.

      (I’m an ex Virgin Media Installer)

    2. Avatar photo Sam says:

      Interesting! I would of thought it would be fairly reliable

      Yeah just tried and nope not eligible

  3. Avatar photo CerealKiller says:

    I’ve just submitted a request via Virgin Media, who came back almost immediately by email to say vouchers aren’t available for my house.

    ONS show it as a D1.

    The check via the Gigabit Voucher site shows vouchers are available.

    Who am I to believe?

    (Thank heavens for Starlink! 🙂 )

    1. Avatar photo occasionally factual says:

      “with residents in Steyning, Upper Beeding and Bramber being invited to participate.”

      Article clearly states where this is happening and that it is by invitation only from Virgin Media.

      So nothing for you to do or to apply for.

    2. Avatar photo occasionally factual says:

      Actually cancel that as the article can be read as you have to apply but only if you are in one of the 3 villages/towns. And knowing VM things wont be easy.

  4. Avatar photo Winston Smith says:

    Testing their mettle rather than metal, unless it’s gone the way of literally and latin plurals while I wasn’t paying attention.

  5. Avatar photo New_Londoner says:

    I’m surprised that Virgin is able to accept vouchers without offering wholesale access.

Comments are closed

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