Virgin Media chief is enthused by UK PM Johnson’s pledge to speed up gigabit broadband rollout

Virgin Media COO Jeff Dodds has voiced his enthusiasm for UK PM Boris Johnson’s pledge to speed up the rollout of gigabit broadband.

Johnson, who took office on Wednesday, pledged on the steps of Downing Street in his first speech to make full-fibre broadband across the country.

The current government target set by the outgoing administration is for gigabit broadband to be available across the country by 2033. Johnson called the existing target “laughably unambitious” and promised to deliver gigabit broadband by 2025, eight years earlier.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given Johnson’s promise of increased funding to help meet the full-fibre goal, Dodds has welcomed the pledge.

Dodds also urges the new Prime Minister to relax some of the rules around the installation of equipment on privately-owned land and some buildings. The current system, Mr Dodds says, is “quite cumbersome” and “not particularly flexible”.

Gigabit broadband will open up new opportunities across the country and is expected to significantly boost the economy.

“There’s a lot that Boris Johnson and Government can do to make that process more streamlined and efficient for people wishing to invest and build-out,” Dodds told PA.

“The second thing is to look at things like broadband rates, the taxation on building out broadband infrastructure.

“If he wants to build faster, there are plenty of levers Boris has at his disposal to pull to encourage people to get their speeds out quicker, including us.”

Virgin Media itself has vowed to bring gigabit broadband to its entire network by the end of 2021. The pledge means almost 15 million homes will have access to speeds capable of downloading 4K movies in minutes.

Lutz Schüler, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: “This upgrade plan will see gigabit speeds rolled out at an unrivalled pace right across the country, bringing our customers the future-proof connections of tomorrow.”

According to Ofcom’s Spring 2019 Connection Nations update, full-fibre is currently only available to seven percent of UK properties.

“We welcome Virgin Media’s commitment to investing further in its network, providing gigabit speeds to millions more households,” comments Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White. “This shows the race to roll out ultrafast speeds to people and businesses across the UK is really gathering pace.”

Several companies have emerged dedicated to delivering full-fibre broadband including Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, Truespeed, Giganet, and CityFibre.

A CityFibre spokesman said:

“As the original champions of full-fibre in the UK, we are delighted to see the new Government recognise the vital importance of rolling out this transformational infrastructure, and we stand ready to work with Government to help achieve this vision.

“Full fibre connectivity is key to introduce a new generation of services, catalyse innovation, promote creativity and drive the economic and social development of the UK.

“The Government’s 2025 target is an ambitious one, and some bold steps are needed to achieve it. An essential element will be to continue to unlock the very significant private investment from companies such as ours in a vibrant competitive market; one prioritised to roll out full-fibre to as much of the UK as possible in the shortest possible time.

“Other essential components will be access to the skills and workforce to get the job done, a proactive approach to removing the barriers that slow local deployment and helping consumers to make the most of this transformational change.”

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