BT under more pressure as Virgin Media 02 unveils fast-fibre plan

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Virgin Media (NASDAQ:VMED) 02 has unveiled plans to deliver a fast-fibre service to 15mln UK households by 2028 in a direct challenge to BT Group PLC (LSE:BT.A)’s Openreach arm.


The group, which was formed by a merger of the cable network Virgin Media with mobile operator 02 last year, said there was an opportunity to enter the fixed wholesale market and supply broadband retailers such as Sky, Vodafone and TalkTalk.


Project Lightning will is currently using tunnels built to house its cable network to install additional fibre capacity and has connections already to 1.2mln homes.


Lutz Schuler, Virgin Media 02’s chief executive, said: “Right now, we have the UK’s leading gigabit network, and this upgrade means we’ll be even stronger for the decades ahead, pursuing new opportunities and putting words into action.”


Boris Johnson has challenged operators to get to 85% of the UK’s broadband network up to a speed of one gigabit by 2025, a target that Virgin Media 02 expects to get two-thirds of the way towards by the end of this year.


Philip Jansen, BT chief executive, said he understood the move by Virgin Media 02 and believes the country needs two “top quality companies delivering the best technology.”


Jansen was speaking after a poor reaction to the company’s latest quarterly numbers, with its shares tumbling by 7% after the group revealed revenues and profits both fell.


BT’s network arm Openreach recently accelerated its own fast fibre roll-out with a target of 25mln premises having access by the end of 2026.


Jansen said: ” “We’re powering ahead with our network build programmes: Openreach has now built full-fibre broadband to more than 5m premises with growing customer demand; EE has set out plans for 5G on-demand anywhere in the UK by 2028.”


Shares in BT dipped 13.4p to 170.6p.

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