Project Lightning: Virgin Media begins £3 billion expansion of its superfast broadband network

Virgin Media has started work on Project Lightning, the largest investment in the UK’s broadband infrastructure in more than a decade. A £3 billion extension will offer superfast broadband to 4 million extra premises over the next five years, leading to a reported increase in the company’s superfast broadband coverage of nearly a third.

Project Lightning: Virgin Media begins £3 billion expansion of its superfast broadband network

Project Lightning will bring ultrafast broadband to a total of 17 million homes by 2020. Virgin Media also calculates the project will generate 6,000 jobs and 1,000 apprenticeships, with an overall benefit to the economy of £8 billion.

First rolling out in Manchester, the project will eventually bring Virgin Media’s superfast broadband to an additional 150,000 addresses in the city, bringing the total to 450,000 homes and businesses. The cost of the rollout in Manchester alone is expected to reach £75 million. Virgin Media says its upgrade schedule will be dictated by demand, and is asking prospective customers to register their interest at

Although Virgin Media was one of the first companies to offer broadband, TV, mobile phone and home phone services, it has less coverage than BT throughout the country, but is the market leader in the areas it does cover.

The reason for this? Virgin Media uses its own cable infrastructure, and can deliver 154Mbps broadband – just over double the speed of BT’s fastest package. Faster than using phone lines, cable broadband speed also differs less from area to area. As a result, Virgin Media customers are far more likely to receive the speeds advertised, regardless of where they live.

According to a Which? survey, an estimated 98% of the Virgin customers received the maximum speed advertised, which is significantly higher than the 6% of BT customers.

Now, with Project Lightning and the prospect of a rapidly expanding network, Virgin Media is a bigger threat to BT than ever before.

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