20th April: Virgin Media O2 has today announced a wide-ranging pack of network expansions and upgrades across the Greater Manchester region, as it continues to drive forward the Government’s levelling up agenda and its own ambition of upgrading the UK.
The company’s 4G network, the backbone of mobile connectivity around the country, has been significantly upgraded over the past 12 months, with capacity boosted in almost 20,000 postcodes across the Greater Manchester region.
Manchester now has superfast 5G coverage provided by Virgin Media O2 that reaches 57% of the population, thanks to recently deployed low band 5G spectrum, giving more people access to the superfast network speeds and capacity. Areas of over 400 towns and cities across the UK now have access to the next generation network, with each location having over 50% population coverage as a minimum.
Virgin Media O2 has continued to act on its pledge to invest over £10billion in the UK, with over £99 million spent in the region in recent years resulting in significant broadband expansion. Over 168,000 homes and businesses have now been built through the company’s Project Lightning programme. This is coupled with the rollout of gigabit broadband speeds to over 891,000 premises across Greater Manchester – delivering speeds 17 times faster than the regional average*.
Last month Virgin Media O2 announced it has connected more than 1,200 homes in Wigan to its ultrafast network, bringing the benefits of gigabit broadband to tens of thousands more people for the first time. The homes in Wigan are now able to benefit from Virgin Media’s services, including Gig1 which offers top speeds of 1,130Mbps – 16 times faster than local average** – which is perfect for busy households working remotely, streaming TV shows and films, video calling friends and family and playing games online.
As part of the UK’s largest Local Full Fibre Networks Programme (LFFN), Virgin Media Business was commissioned by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) to connect more than 1,500 public sites to full fibre in Greater Manchester. The multi-million-pound digital investment delivered economic benefits worth £11.8m in the first year alone. As part of the programme, Virgin Media Business and the GMCA have now connected 16 homeless shelters, community centres and charities to its network since the project began and is providing free connectivity for local people.
The programme spanned a number of bold investments in social value initiatives supporting Greater Manchester’s Digital Blueprint. This included a commitment from Virgin Media Business to create 50 apprenticeships based in the area, supporting the Greater Manchester Technology.
Fund by donating digital kit bundles to help 567 school children at risk of digital exclusion continue learning during lockdown, and donating £100,000 to the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity’s “A Bed Every Night” programme, to fund emergency bed spaces and additional assistance for those who are currently experiencing homelessness.
Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 said:
“Virgin Media O2 is spearheading the government’s levelling up agenda, via our gigabit broadband rollout and mobile network expansion, and our investment in Greater Manchester is testament to our commitment in the region. We’re dedicated to bringing the best customer experience to all our customers around the UK, whether that’s superfast network connections or via the donation of digital kit bundles to schools to help reduce the digital divide, as we continue to upgrade the UK.”
Cllr Bev Craig, GMCA Lead for Education, Skills, Work and Apprenticeships, Digital said:
“We welcome Virgin Media O2s announcement and are happy to see significant investment in the Greater Manchester region, which will boost our digital economy. It’s important that we see growth in the digital sector. Throughout the pandemic our people and our businesses relied on communications services more than ever, so it’s great to see that Virgin Media O2 is supporting these areas with next generation connectivity. This, coupled with our work to fix the digital divide across the region, are just two examples of ways in which we are ensuring Greater Manchester becomes a world leading digital-city region, a region that puts residents at the heart of our plans.”
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Notes to Editors
*Average local broadband speeds taken from non-weighted average of for all Greater Manchester councils download speeds (65.92Mbps)
**The average (median) broadband speed in Wigan is 70.2Mbps. Source: Ofcom, Connected Nations Report 2021, published 16 December 2021.