Virgin Media has revealed plans to extend its network by four million UK premises in what it is calling the largest investment in UK broadband infrastructure in over a decade. 

Named “Project Lightning”, the £3 billion (€4 billion) investment, backed by parent company Libery Global, will see Virgin Media expand its Hybrid Fibre/Coax (HFC) infrastructure to approximately 17 million UK premises within the next five years.

The operator told European Communications that the project may also extend to FTTP installations “over the course of the programme”.

Virgin Media’s Gareth Mead said: “Our HFC network provides the fastest widely available broadband in the UK and has been successfully tested to deliver speeds of 1.5Gb, almost one hundred times faster than the current national average connection.”

While the network expansion will be prioritised to areas closest to its existing network, Virgin has offered a registration process for communities wishing to register interest in getting connected.

The operator added that the investment would also help widen the reach of its Virgin Media Business unit as enterprises were connected to its HFC network for the first time.

A new scheme targeted at SMEs in East London will see the operator install multi-tenant fibre access to commercial buildings with shared occupancy, before addressing other parts of the UK.

Virgin, which has five million fibre customers, said the project would create 6,000 new jobs and provide an £8 billion (€10.7 billion) boost to the UK economy.

It revealed that data use on its network was growing at a rate of 60 percent per annum. If this trend continues, the operator forecasts usage to be 10,000 percent higher in ten years.

The announcement came as Virgin posted revenue growth of 3.6 percent in the last three months of 2014.

For the year as a whole, revenues were up 2.5 percent to €6.5 billion.

Parent Liberty Global recorded a three percent increase in revenues for 2014, hitting €16 billion.

It saw sales rise in all of its markets apart from the Netherlands, where sales were down 0.7 percent.

CEO Mike Fries stated, "2014 was a milestone year for us on many fronts. We increased the pace of innovation in broadband, video, and wireless, delivered steady organic subscriber growth, continued driving operational efficiencies and achieved all of our financial targets.

“In 2015… we are also preparing for trials of DOCSIS 3.1 technology in the second half of this year, which we expect will meaningfully and cost effectively extend our speed leadership to 1GB when we begin commercial deployments and up to 10GB in the future.

“With our superior broadband network, the expansion of WiFi to 10 million locations by the end of 2015 and our new mobile launches across Europe, we are well positioned to offer consumers the best connectivity experience available in our markets.”

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