Virgin Media lights up 900,000 fibre premises and plots 100,000 more

27 Jun 2018

Albatross Light Tower in Arklow, Co Wicklow. Image: Yuriy Shmidt/Shutterstock

Project Lightning is striking all over Ireland with 1m fibre-connected premises in Virgin Media’s sights.

Virgin Media’s fibre broadband mojo is in full swing after it revealed a landmark figure of 900,000 premises across Ireland that are now passed by its fibre broadband network.

Things appear to be going so exceedingly well that the cable TV and broadband operator has revealed plans to add 100,000 more homes via its Project Lightning fibre network plan, which heralds speeds of 1Gbps and beyond across Ireland.

Earlier this year, reported that Virgin Media was in stealth mode on its plans to deliver high-speed broadband around Ireland just as the National Broadband Plan was being rocked by the departures of Siro and Eir, leaving just one contender, the Enet-SSE consortium, in the race.

Virgin Media has been quietly working away on its own £3bn plan called Project Lightning to bring 17m premises in the UK and Ireland into the 1Gbps sphere and beyond – or GigaWorld, as it calls it.

At the time, Paul Farrell, vice-president of commercial at Virgin Media, explained that the company has been working incrementally on a regional roll-out strategy, focusing primarily on key towns. He said it has eschewed making broad announcements as it has to compete internally within Liberty Global for investment projects.

And now, the full extent of the plan has been revealed, with 900,000 premises passed and 100,000 more on the way.

Project Lightning to strike 1m times

Pictured in Arklow: The CEO of Virgin Media in Ireland Tony Hanway; Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, TD; and CEO of Wicklow County Council Frank Curran. Image: Julien Behal

Pictured in Arklow: The CEO of Virgin Media in Ireland Tony Hanway; Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, TD; and CEO of Wicklow County Council Frank Curran. Image: Julien Behal

The company said it is on target to reach the 1m milestone over the next two years.

The new plan was revealed this morning (27 June) in Arklow, Co Wicklow, where the landmark was passed, following Virgin Media’s addition of more than 9,000 premises to its network in both Arklow and Wicklow town.

The specific build in Arklow and Wicklow involved a €10m local investment in Virgin Media’s high-capacity network in the towns, including the laying of 75km of fibre and the establishment of free public Wi-Fi services in each town.

Over the past decade, Virgin Media’s parent company, Liberty Global, has invested more than €1bn in its Irish operations and next-generation network infrastructure.

“Project Lightning is our ongoing commitment to Ireland, connecting towns, cities, consumers and businesses with ultrafast services, and enabling digital progress, productivity and economic growth in the process,” said Virgin Media CEO Tony Hanway.

“The multimillion-euro investment we have made in Arklow and Wicklow town brings Ireland’s fastest broadband network to these two vibrant and growing towns.

“Households connecting to Virgin Media will benefit from Ireland’s fastest broadband and in-home Wi-Fi, with speeds reaching 360Mbps. There will also be a boost for the local economy as businesses will be able to access speeds of up to 10Gbps or more, meaning they can go about their day-to-day work and grow their enterprises with confidence in having great digital connectivity.”

The 900,000 milestone was welcomed by Communications Minister Denis Naughten, TD.

“Broadband is an essential service for our society and economic growth, and Virgin Media has been at the forefront of fibre broadband investments in Ireland.

“This investment is helping us to address our European digital agenda targets, stimulate healthy competition in the sector while benefiting families, customers and businesses in towns and cities throughout the country,” Naughten said.

Updated, 11.47am, 27 June 2018: This article was updated to clarify that the Project Lightning plan is worth £3bn, not €3bn.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years