Virgin Media O2 has today detailed a range of network infrastructure upgrades, expansion and investments across Wales, as part of its mission to upgrade the UK. The company’s increased mobile network coverage has been spearheaded by 4G upgrades, with capacity boosted in 5,800 postcodes over the past year to support customers and business staying connected during the pandemic.
Coupled with 4G upgrades, Cardiff now has 5G coverage that reaches more than 66% of the population, thanks to recently deployed low band 5G spectrum, giving more people access to superfast network speeds and enhanced performance. This rollout is part of a nationwide effort which has resulted in Virgin Media O2’s 5G coverage now being available to more than 400 towns and cities across the UK, all with more than 50% population coverage. Virgin Media O2 has committed to reach 50% of the UK’s population with its 5G services in 2023.
Continued investment of more than £61 million in recent years has also resulted in significant broadband network expansion across Wales, with 104,000 homes and businesses being built through the company’s Project Lightning programme, alongside the rollout of gigabit broadband speeds to almost 1 million people* across Wales – delivering speeds 14 times faster than the capital’s average**.
In total, Virgin Media O2 invested more than £2bn of capital in network infrastructure and customer experience in 2021, as it seeks to upgrade the UK across fixed and mobile services for customers.
The company completed its wider gigabit rollout in December, meaning that the company’s entire fixed network of 15.6 million homes can now access broadband with average download speeds of 1,130Mbps. Virgin Media O2 has also recently announced its intention to upgrade its fixed network to full fibre to the premises (FTTP) with completion in 2028.
In a further boost to businesses, Virgin Media Business Wholesale, the fixed wholesale connectivity arm of Virgin Media O2 Business, has announced a significant boost to its pre-existing fibre capacity in South Wales. The telco has more than doubled its capacity across the M4 Prince of Wales Severn Bridge, connecting subsea landing stations to the M4 corridor and London. This adds vital capacity to support demand from wholesale partners on either side of the estuary, ensuring shorter delivery times for customer projects. It also enables additional diverse and resilient network routes for businesses depending on reliable and secure data transmission between South Wales and the rest of the UK.
An early beneficiary of Virgin Media Business Wholesale’s M4 Severn Bridge cable upgrade is Vantage Data Centers CWL1, Europe’s largest data centre campus, and its growing base of customers. The 270MW, 135,000 square meter site is located near Cardiff and provides world-class facilities for hyperscale and colocation customers.
Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales, said: “High-quality digital connectivity in Wales and across the United Kingdom is essential to help us level up the economy and increase opportunity for all. Virgin Media O2’s investment, alongside other projects to deliver better fixed and mobile broadband across Wales, will boost the Welsh economy and unlock opportunities for investment and growth.”
The Deputy Minister for Climate Change, Lee Waters said, “I welcome Virgin Media O2’s continued investment in Wales, improving both fast broadband and 5G coverage, the technologies that residents, businesses and the public sector will need now and in the future.
“The pandemic has highlighted our reliance on good digital connectivity, with so many people working from home where a reliable broadband connection is vital. The investment in extra wholesale capacity on the Severn will also mean that larger businesses and data centres can access the fibre capacity they need and bring more competition to south Wales.”
Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said: “Our continued investment in Wales is a key demonstration of the crucial role both broadband and mobile connectivity plays, and the impact it has, on local communities as we seek to reduce the digital divide. Cardiff is currently one of our strongest cities with 5G coverage, and I’m proud of our ongoing work to upgrade our 4G network across the country, providing the backbone of connectivity to our customers. Our fibre investment in the Severn Bridge demonstrates our commitment to supporting wholesale partners and businesses in Wales, giving them the fastest and most reliable connectivity to boost productivity and efficiency.”
Virgin Media O2’s mobile network is powered by 100% renewable electricity where it controls the bill, and has further lowered consumption with smart sensors, intuitive software and free air cooling.
*Based on number of premises connected to Virgin Media O2’s network in Wales (410,000) times by the average household size in the UK (2.36). Source: Office for National Statistics – Families and households (9 March 2022)
**The average (median) broadband speed in Cardiff is 77.2Mbps. Source: Ofcom, Connected Nations Report 2021, published 16 December 2021.