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Project will create 6,000 jobs

Virgin Media invests £3bn in Britain’s broadband network

Virgin MediaVirgin Media has stepped up the battle with BT and Sky by announcing what it describes as the single largest investment in broadband digital infrastructure in Britain for more than a decade.

It will pour £3 billion into extending its service to a further four million homes and businesses by 2020.

Project Lightning tops the £2.5bn set aside by BT for its own similar investment that began in 2009. It will take Virgin’s total customer reach to 17 million by 2020 and give Virgin a bigger stake in quad play services – fixed line, mobile, broadband and television.

The news comes just days after BT sealed a £12.5bn acquisition of mobile network EE and signed a deal along with Sky for new English Premier League football rights.

Virgin claims that householders will benefit from broadband speeds of 152Mb, at least twice the fastest speeds available from BT, TalkTalk and Sky. It is expected to be a particular boost to small businesses and people working from home.

The company is owned by Liberty global and the investment will be financed mainly through incremental borrowings. Analysis undertaken by leading economic consultancy Oxera has found that it will stimulate a combined £8bn of economic activity and consumer benefit.

Sixty per cent of Virgin Media customers now have at least three devices connected to their home broadband, up from 37% a year ago. Data usage on the Virgin Media network is currently growing at a rate of around 60% annually which, at this rate, will be 10,000% higher in ten years.

Liberty Global is the world’s largest international cable company. Together Virgin Media and Liberty Global serve 27 million customers across 14 countries.

 Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media chief executive, said: “Millions of homes and businesses will soon be able to benefit for the first time from broadband speeds at least twice as fast as those available from the other major providers. Consumers and business owners who want to make the switch to better broadband speeds now have an alternative; you can call on Virgin Media to ‘Cable My Street’.”

Mike Fries, Liberty Global chief executive, said: “Our next-generation fibre-rich networks reach 50 million households across Europe, enabling our customers to discover and experience the endless possibilities of the digital world. After a record operating performance, Project Lightning is a significant investment that demonstrates the confidence we have in Virgin Media and the UK as a place to do business.”

Virgin Media has recently launched a multi-million pound campaign featuring the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. The track star is joined by various animal archetypes which exhibit the different ways people consume entertainment and stay connected using Virgin Media’s broadband services.

The ad campaign sees the return of Ed the Sofa Bear and Ally the Night Owl and the introduction of new characters Chloe the Chatterparrot and three cheeky racoons known as the Broadbandits.

Each character makes the most of Virgin’s  network as they all go online simultaneously, thus showing its ability to cope with high demand. The ad campaign was created by BBH, with media planning handled by Fifty6.

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