Virgin Media’s Tony Hanway: ‘4m UK and Irish homes to join the GigaWorld’

13 Dec 2017

Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland. Image: Luke Maxwell

Project Lightning will bring even more premises in the UK and Ireland into the 1Gbps world.

“Project Lightning is up and running in Ireland right now and, I would say, with great gusto,” said Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland, to during the company’s recent Digital Evolution event in Belfast.

Project Lightning is worth £3bn, which Virgin Media said is the single biggest private investment in digital infrastructure in the UK and Ireland for more than a decade. It aims to deliver ultrafast speeds from 300Mpbs to 1Gbps and beyond.

‘We are spending £3bn to connect 4m extra premises to superfast broadband speeds’

The impact of the investment in the UK economy alone will be £8bn and will generate at least 6,000 new jobs, including 1,000 apprenticeships.

Overall, about 4m premises are due to be completed by 2019.

“The GigaWorld is Liberty Global’s [Virgin’s parent company] initiative to bring super-fast broadband to as many people as possible in the Liberty Global footprint in western Europe but also in the Caribbean and Latin America,” said Hanway.

Research from Arthur D Little estimates that the GigaWorld will unlock a €250bn-per-year wave of innovation to the European economy by 2025, through applications such as augmented discovery (including holographic sports events), virtual telepresence and automated living through telepresence health monitoring, robots and drones.

What is the GigaWorld?

“We see the GigaWorld as the coming together of technology and bandwidth and people, to create new technology experiences and make sure people get the best benefits from the broadband speeds, and ultimately transform people’s lives through how they live and how they interact with technology.”

While many in today’s world assume they are connected, in the GigaWorld sense, as Virgin Media sees it, they are not.

“In our opinion, not everybody is connected until the last broadband networks they deserve or need have these giga speeds. Not all networks are created equal. When the bandwidth and connectivity is in place, then the services, platforms and innovations will follow.

“Project Lightning is our effort in Virgin Media UK and Ireland to deliver the GigaWorld. We are spending £3bn to connect 4m extra premises to superfast broadband speeds.”

Specifically in Northern Ireland, Hanway said that roughly 50,000 premises are connected to Project Lightning.

In the Republic of Ireland, Virgin Media has been expanding beyond its traditional mainstays of Dublin, Galway, Waterford and Limerick to include many more locations, including Gorey, Arklow, Enniscorthy, Wexford and Ballina as well as filling out its network in Limerick, Cork, Tullamore, Drogheda and Dundalk, to name a few.

“This will deliver fibre-to-the-home speeds of 1Gbps. We haven’t gone back to just the usual suspects in terms of locations. We can no longer be accused of being metropolitan-centric in terms of the bigger cities and towns. We are actually being strategic in bringing giga speeds to places that haven’t even had broadband before.”

He concluded: “In many cases, it is ironic that people who have waited the longest for broadband are actually getting 1Gbps fibre to the home. At last, they are getting future-proofed broadband that will last them a long time.”

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