Virgin Media O2 confirms fibre joint venture talks

Virgin Media O2
(Image credit: Virgin Media O2)

Virgin Media O2 has confirmed discussions with third parties about a potential joint-venture that would build a full fibre broadband network serving seven million additional homes and businesses by 2027.

The company’s upgrade programme means every single one of the 15.5 million homes and businesses served by its cable network can now access broadband speeds of 1Gbps, while there are plans to connect another 500,000 in 2022.

The entire network will be upgraded to fibre to the premise (FTTP) technology by 2028 as Virgin Media O2 seeks to maintain its technological leadership and develop genuine converged products that can compete with BT.

Virgin Media O2 upgrade

But now it wants to go even further. When announcing its full year results, Virgin Media O2 said its parent companies Telefonica and Liberty Global had initiated talks with external investors about building a network that would be open to all communications providers, rivalling Openreach in some areas. Virgin Media O2’s main cable network would not be available for wholesale customers however.

The newly-merged company added 177,000 new broadband users last year, as well as 2.7 million mobile connections – a figure which also includes wholesale and IoT customers. It now has 5.8 million fixed subscribers and 32 million retail mobile connections, the latter of which rose by 344,000 last year.

Revenues were down 1.2% to £10.4 billion for the full year, as consumer fixed gains were offset by declines in mobile and B2B revenues, with profit doubling to £18.3 million. The company added it had invested £2 billion in its network and customer service operations during 2021, improving its fixed and 5G infrastructure, while limiting churn and increasing satisfaction levels.

“In a historic year for our business, which saw the completion of the UK’s largest ever telecoms merger, we stayed focused and finished 2021 on a high,” declared Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media O2.

“We saw sustained subscriber growth across fixed and mobile as the demand for fast, reliable connectivity remains, and delivered an increase in profitability while investing more than £2bn in our network, services and future growth drivers.

“As part of our mission to upgrade the UK, we expanded our 5G coverage, completed our gigabit rollout as promised, and we now plan to extend our footprint to ~23 million premises through a new fibre venture being set up by our shareholders.

“We’ve started this year by being the only big four mobile network to not reintroduce EU roaming charges. This challenger spirit runs deep across the organisation, and we have every intention of building on this energy and maintaining the momentum we’ve built up.”

Via Sky News

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.