This month marked an important milestone in the future evolution of our broadband services: for the first time, we switched on state-of-the-art XGS-PON technology on our live full-fibre network. The first trialists are benefitting from this new technology which, in the years to come, will power every broadband connection on our network building on the gigabit leadership we have today.
Let me first take a step back and explain what this means and why it’s such a significant milestone in our fixed network evolution. In its simplest form, XGS-PON is a new standard of passive optical networks – a technological standard similar to 5G in the mobile world – which allows us to send and receive data over fibre optic cables. It’ll form a crucial part of our ongoing commitment to providing a consistent and reliable network for our customers.
In a similar way to 5G technology leading to faster mobile speeds and lower latency services, XGS-PON will support multi-gigabit and symmetrical broadband speeds as well as more reliable connections in the future. And what do I mean by that? Put simply, in future, customers could upload as quickly as they download with speeds of up to 10Gbps – ten times faster than the top speeds today – with nearly imperceptible delays. This connectivity will underpin so many future technologies – from Metaverse applications, enhanced entertainment formats like immersive sports broadcasting and ultra-realistic gaming to new applications that are not yet imaginable.
Upgrades like this are an important step to help us keep pace with the ever-growing demand for data. Since 2018, data use on our broadband network has grown by nearly a third every single year. With data intensive services like 4K video streaming, gaming and file sharing all now the norm, and new technologies like cloud gaming, augmented and virtual reality predicted to take off in coming years, our teams are working hard day in and day out to ensure our services deliver for customers.
Of course, it’s not just consumers that are set to benefit. This next-generation connectivity will enable businesses to offer more reliable, seamless and streamlined services for their employees and customers, too. It will further revolutionise the way businesses can operate both physically and remotely, a trend that was accelerated through the pandemic, and support emerging technologies such as IoT and cloud computing across a range of sectors from manufacturing to the public sector through low latency, low power connectivity solutions.
Not only does XGS-PON support multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds, but it provides a far more energy efficient networking solution. The technology uses less power, helping reduce our energy consumption and deliver our broader sustainability ambitions.
Virgin Media O2 already boasts the country’s largest gigabit network, passing 16 million homes and businesses, which is still the cornerstone of our connectivity today. This new fibre technology complements our existing position while signalling an important step on our journey towards future applications and innovation. It’s the culmination of a lot of work from many people within my team and our partners, and another important step in our journey to upgrade our entire network to full fibre services.
This journey I speak of includes our announcement last year to upgrade our fixed network to full fibre to the premises (FTTP) by 2028. And a few months ago we received incredible backing from our shareholders Liberty Global and Telefónica, alongside investment firm, InfraVia Capital Partners, who declared a major investment of approximately £4.5bn in the UK with the creation of a new fibre joint venture. This will see up to 7 million premises being passed with a new wholesale full fibre network representing a significant commitment to the UK and a boost to the nation’s digital economy at a crucial time when people are relying on our services more than ever.
Innovation is hard-wired into our business and has helped make us the UK’s speed leader at scale. With our commitment to continue investing in the UK, coupled with our network upgrades and expansion, we stand ready to power the technology of tomorrow.