Virgin Media has allied with the Home Builders Federation (HBF) to make it easier for newly-built properties to be connected to its network, making it possible for new homeowners to connect with Virgin’s excitingly-named “Project Lightning” from the moment they move in.
The company is currently in the middle of its historic £3 billion network expansion which will see Virgin Media’s superfast fibre optic broadband cables spread over even more of the UK, allowing connection to 17 million new properties and upgrading the network in areas where it already exists. The expansion is largely concerned with targeting the areas already covered by BT Openreach, in order to give customers a new, increased choice in fibre optic internet connectivity.
The decision to build fibre optic connectivity into so many new homes seems to be perfectly timed: recently complaints began to surface from new homeowners, complaints that they could not connect quickly enough to broadband upon moving in. The building companies involved frequently responded that they were under no obligation to install the cables necessary, but it is not an easy peace. Virgin aims to resolve this issue by connecting as houses are built, giving homeowners a chance to use their super-fast fibre optic broadband from Day One.
However, others are reporting the opposite result; some builders are rejecting the offer to allow Virgin to connect the houses, with new owners of the affected houses now needing to wait as much as two years for the fibre-optic broadband to come back around. This has, understandably, led to a lot of homeowner frustration and resulted in an increased push on the project by Virgin Media – as a response, they have opened an online portal to allow home builders to register their builds for Project Lightning and receive guidance from Virgin on how to accomplish it successfully. According to Virgin themselves, this is a winning idea all round, as the builders ultimately wind up with a more “attractive, desirable home” on their hands.
When the building teams agree to the installation of Virgin’s fibre optic cables, a site assessment is immediately carried out to see whether the site would be suitable, then Virgin themselves provide all the build materials, equipment, specifications, and a build manager, before refunding the builders the cost of the work.
Virgin says a property build is more likely to be accepted if it is close to an already-established network, but the huge drive for Project Lightning to connect isolated areas and small centres that have traditionally been cut off from the broadband revolution means nowhere is truly beyond their reach. If a new connection can be made while en route to a new area, even better.
Speaking about the deal, the HBF executive chairman, Stewart Basely, said “connectivity is key in today’s world, absolutely vital to the modern person’s convenience and life, so our ability to connect today’s modern housing to cutting-edge broadband systems is a key consideration for builders. The new connections will mean competition between network providers, ultimately resulting in better service and results for the consumer, making these new builds even more attractive.”
A similar deal to the one between Virgin Media and HBF has been reached with BT, with their Openreach subsidiary covering the build costs up to £550, resulting in more than half of the new builds connecting at no additional cost for the build team. This has proven a huge success as well, so the era of instant connection and proper competition between network providers of super-fast broadband may finally be here.