Virgin Media O2 has revealed plans to extend its full-fibre broadband to cover around 23 million homes across the UK during its latest financial results. As it stands, Virgin Media O2 operates the biggest gigabit-capable broadband network in the UK, with some 15.5 million premises able to access its super-fast internet. In second place, BT-owned Openreach has connected a little over six million homes to its next-generation broadband infrastructure.
Virgin Media O2 hopes to reach its new 23 million target by 2027. That brings it into direct competition with BT’s Openreach, which aims to install full-fibre broadband to 25 million premises by December 2026. For those desperate for next-generation speeds, both companies will be racing to upgrade the ageing copper cables in your street.
The extra seven million connections that Virgin Media O2 needs to complete its lofty goal will be managed by a new joint venture. This new company will be responsible for managing the network and rolling out new connections, it confirmed in the latest quarterly earnings report.
Why the need for a new company? As confirmed in its latest earnings call, Virgin Media O2 has completed talks with a number of financial partners to help fund the expanding broadband network. There’s no word on which firms were involved in these discussions, but rumours have long suggested that prominent broadband companies – like Sky and TalkTalk – are interested in moving customers from Openreach to a new wholesale network from Virgin Media O2.
As it stands, Sky, TalkTalk, Shell Energy, NOW TV and a number of other broadband brands rely on BT-owned Openreach to provide the infrastructure. With a fraction over six million premises on the Openreach network able to access speeds close to 1,000Mbps (roughly 14 times faster than the average home broadband connection) compared to the 15.5 million Virgin Media customers already capable of unlocking these ludicrous download speeds at home, it’s possible that Sky and TalkTalk are getting restless waiting to be able to offer customers the fastest speeds.
By joining the new venture with Virgin Media O2, these brands will have a hand in their own destiny.
Of course, there’s no confirmation from big wigs at Virgin Media O2 that either of these brands are linked to the new joint venture. These are simply long-swirling rumours. Regardless of who decides to join the new venture, Virgin Media broadband will soon be available to millions more people across the UK. That increased competition for fast speeds and paid-for television is only a good thing for consumers looking to choose between Sky, BT TV and Virgin Media.
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Summarising the rest of the financial results, Virgin Media O2 CEO Lutz Schüler said: “In a historic year for our business, which saw the completion of the UK’s largest ever telecoms merger, we stayed focused and finished 2021 on a high. We saw sustained subscriber growth across fixed and mobile as the demand for fast, reliable connectivity remains, and delivered an increase in profitability while investing more than £2 billion in our network, services and future growth drivers.
“As part of our mission to upgrade the UK, we expanded our 5G coverage, completed our gigabit rollout as promised, and we now plan to extend our footprint to 23 million premises through a new fibre venture being set up by our shareholders. We’ve started this year by being the only big four mobile network to not reintroduce EU roaming charges. This challenger spirit runs deep across the organisation, and we have every intention of building on this energy and maintaining the momentum we’ve built up.”
It’s not all upside for Virgin Media O2 customers, with confirmation the latest annual price rise will see monthly bills increase by an average of £56 a year.