The biggest investment in the UK's broadband infrastructure for more than a decade is to be carried out by Virgin Media and Liberty Global, in a move that will see four million more homes and businesses connected to its network over the next five years.
The expansion will see Virgin Media add significantly to its existing infrastructure, resulting in a total of 17 million premises being connected by 2020, as the company aims to improve connectivity across the UK.
As well as connecting more UK homes and businesses to broadband speeds of up to 152Mb, Virgin Media says the £3 billion of additional private investment will benefit the UK economy by £8 billion, creating 6,000 direct new jobs, including 1,000 new apprenticeships, over the next five years.
Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge said that consumers and business owners who want to switch to faster broadband speeds now have the ability to take up the ‘Cable My Street’ option.
He added: "In virtually all of the areas we have identified for expansion, BT is the only option available right now. Its ageing copper telephony wires are not capable of the ultrafast connectivity that Virgin Media delivers. Soon we will offer unbeatable services to even more homes and businesses across the country."
The announcement was welcomed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who said the new jobs and apprenticeships will mean "financial security and economic peace of mind" for thousands more people and businesses across the country.
"Together with this government’s rollout of superfast broadband, which has now reached more than two million UK homes and businesses, this additional private investment will create more opportunities for people and businesses, further boosting our digital economy and helping secure a brighter future for Britain," he added.
Mike Fries, Liberty Global Chief Executive Officer, said that capacity is becoming increasingly important, with the number of internet-enabled devices growing significantly in the past decade.
"Data usage on the Virgin Media network is currently growing at a rate of around 60 per cent every year which, if this trend continues, will be 10,000 per cent higher in ten years," he added.
As such, Mr Fries said the upcoming investment will help to cope with capacity and ensure people across the UK benefit from faster speeds for years to come.
Ewan Taylor-Gibson, broadband expert at uSwitch.com, said: “Virgin Media's hefty cash injection will have a marked impact on UK broadband infrastructure, benefiting consumers and creating jobs in the process. More competition and faster speeds can only be a good thing for Brits.
“Almost two thirds (65%) of broadband users now consider themselves heavy or moderate internet users, so the need for superfast speeds is becoming all the more urgent."
Taylor-Gibson added: “But the devil is in the detail. Virgin Media will focus its expansion in areas closest to its existing network, based on consumer and business demand.
"This could mean rural customers are knocked down the priority list if there aren’t enough residents in remote areas to convince Virgin to ‘Cable My Street’."