Virgin Media’s network isn’t as universal as many of its competitors, after all it’s forced to build its own network, while others piggy-back off of BT’s. That’s why just a third of Kent is connected to Virgin Media’s cable network, although that will soon change – with the telecoms operator announcing that up to 108,000 premises will be connected by the end of 2018.
The Kent expansion comes as part of Project Lightning, a massive £3bn project to connect an additional four million homes to the Virgin Media network by 2019. Two million of those homes are designated fibre-to-the-premises, meaning homeowners should get the fastest speeds available.
Virgin Media recently upped its entry-level download speeds to 100Mbps, with residents able to enjoy 300Mbps on the top package. That blows away BT’s top package in the county, although BT is also upgrading its network in the county – with Gillingham having been chosen to test the operator’s G.fast broadband technology, enabling speeds up to 330Mbps.
While Virgin Media has yet to state where its network will expand in the region, the company has confirmed that work has started on connecting an additional 8,000 new premises in Ashford.
Neil Bartholomew, regional director for the South East at Virgin Media, notes: “We’re delighted to be expanding our network to tens of thousands more homes and businesses to help to make Kent a world class digital hotspot. Local residents and businesses will soon be getting the high-speed connectivity they deserve. We urge more people to come together and register their interest – your street could be next.”
Ashford has seen massive development in recent years, with the area having been chosen as one of the four key areas for expansion in the South East in 2001, although that designation was scrapped under the coalition government. Despite scrapping the designation, Ashford has continued to grow exponentially with a range of new housing estates and retail developments.
Rt Hon Damian Green, MP for Ashford and secretary of state for work and pensions, says: “Ultrafast broadband is a huge boon to businesses and domestic customers, and I am delighted that it will become more widely available in Ashford. This is what is needed to make our area even more successful in the future.”
Cllr Gerry Clarkson, leader of Ashford Borough Council, adds: “A growing town like Ashford needs the very best modern technology and we are delighted Virgin Media have chosen our borough for such a significant digital infrastructure investment which will mean we will have some of the best broadband access in the country. This will make a big difference for our residents and businesses, making it easier, faster and more efficient to connect.
“The Council understands the significance of this type of broadband investment and Ashford has been at the forefront of pushing the fibre agenda. Its importance cannot be underestimated, which is why our Local Plan to 2030 includes an innovative Fibre to the Premises policy, ensuring all new developments in Ashford will benefit from this vital infrastructure and paving the way for similar policies within all local plans.”
Given Virgin Media’s tendency to target urban populations, the company could bring its roll-out to some of the most populous areas in the county. That includes Maidstone, Medway, Dartford, Margate, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Gravesend and Canterbury. Virgin Media is staying mum for now, however.
In addition to the fast broadband connection, residents who opt for a Virgin Media package will also have access to the company’s TV service, which comes with the new Virgin TV V6 set-top box.
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