Virgin Media Ireland is planning to invest €200 million to upgrade its broadband network to full fibre over the next three years in a move that will lead to the addition of 500 jobs at the group. The investment is being funded by its US-listed parent Liberty Global and will offer customers the fastest broadband speeds in the Irish market.
Tony Hanway, the company's chief executive, also told The Irish Times that the company is not for sale, contrary to some recent media reports and rumours in the marketplace.
“Virgin Media is not for sale, and that includes Virgin Media Television and we’re announcing a three-year plan to bring our network up to full fibre, which is a very big investment in an Irish context,” he said.
Mr Hanway said speculation about its future ownership had been “frustrating” for the company. “We said nothing but we’ve been working on this for the last year . The bottom line is that Liberty Global is committed to Ireland and the number-one way to demonstrate that is by a making a multimillion-euro investment to bring the network up to full fibre. It’s a great step for us and it’s good for Irish consumers and businesses as well.”
The new fibre broadband service will be available to more than one million homes and businesses, and will enable speeds of up to 10Gbps (Gigabits per second) for customers, according to Virgin Media. That would be about 10 times faster than the top speed it currently offers.
The company also plans to allow other operators to piggyback on its network by offering wholesale access for the first time. “That’s quite a departure for us,” Mr Hanway said. “We’ve always been something of a walled garden and we’ve always maintained our own network. But I think at this stage of our maturity we see ourselves being able to create more value by opening it up to other partners.”
Speeds of 10Gbps
Work on upgrading its broadband network to full fibre will begin in early 2022 and is expected to take three years to complete. Virgin Media said it had already successfully piloted a fibre upgrade of 500 premises, delivering speeds of up to 10Gbps.
Mr Hanway said Virgin Media’s existing fibre broadband currently passed about 960,000 homes here while it also had about 35,000 business customers. “This year we will probably add 12,000 homes to the network,” he said. “For us, new housing development is good news. The more the merrier.”
Eamon Ryan, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, welcomed news of the investment. "Continued investments by commercial operators such as this bring benefits for consumers," he said. "Together with the Government's investment under the National Broadband Plan, this will place Ireland at the forefront of EU countries in terms of gigabit connectivity."