Virgin Media to give Test and Dun Valleys a broadband boost

12 March 2018

  • Virgin Media to bring ultrafast broadband to the Test and Dun Valleys as part of its first community-backed scheme
  • Project Lightning will enable up to 4,000 premises across 12 villages to access speeds up to 350Mbps – almost 200 times faster than today

The first spades have entered the ground in Test and Dun Valley as Virgin Media formally launches its ultrafast broadband rollout in the area thanks to an innovative community-backed initiative.

Rob Evans, Managing Director of the Virgin Media Lightning Programme, welcomed local MP Caroline Nokes, councillors and Need4Speed, the local broadband campaign group, to Chilbolton village in the Test Valley to watch the build in action. Virgin Media expects this to lead to similar community-backed projects across the UK.

The innovative scheme is the first of its kind for Virgin Media and is part of its £3 billion Project Lightning ultrafast broadband expansion programme. Work is underway already with completion expected by the end of 2019. This means up to 4,000 residents and small businesses will benefit from an ultrafast broadband service.

For Test and Dun Valley residents and businesses, downloading, streaming or uploading files has been near-on impossible. The up to 350Mbps connection the Project Lightning team will deliver will transform their day-to-day lives:

  • Download a standard HD movie file (5GB) in 3 minutes, compared to nearly 6 hours on the average local connection;
  • Download a 25GB console game in 12 minutes, compared to nearly 30 hours on the average local connection.

Due to the rural environment of the area, and the lack of any significant broadband infrastructure, it did not initially meet Virgin Media’s usual commercial requirements for expansion. However, Need4Speed, a group which advocates better broadband for 12 small villages in the area, was fed up with download speeds of only 2Mbps. So the group approached Virgin Media in 2016 and requested it bring its ultrafast broadband network to the area. Virgin Media helped them confirm it was commercially viable by ensuring local residents and businesses were committed to the initiative:

  • 30% or more of the residents (1,200 premises) had to register their interest;
  • More than 1,000 local residents had to commit to take broadband services from Virgin Media. This was easily achieved with a 38% sign up across the valley, with some villages reaching a 78% sign up rate.

Virgin Media’s gigabit-ready lines will mean locals can also sign up to Virgin TV and be able to benefit from the latest entertainment on its new smallest, smartest, fastest, 4k-ready V6 set-top box. Its broadband offering will also allow villagers greater access and flexibility to do the things they need to do and love doing, such as: the ability to stream, game, chat and work with multiple people on multiple connected devices.

Rob Evans, Managing Director of the Virgin Media Lightning Programme, said: ‘We are extremely excited about our ultrafast broadband expansion in the Test and Dun Valleys - this is a new way of delivering our gigabit-ready network. This has been a brilliant example of us working hand in hand with the local community to deliver a solution which works for us both. We look forward to doing more of these in the future.”

Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North, said: “I am amazed by the huge amount of work which has been put in by members of the community in rural parts of my constituency, particularly Cate Bell and her team in West Tytherley, but also the ‘community champions’ who worked so tirelessly to make this build a reality.

“Virgin Media’s commitment to this project has been fantastic and I am very pleased to see how quickly the build has already progressed. Access to fast broadband is essential for modern life and prior to this project, four wards in my constituency were in the lowest ten percent for broadband speeds in the country; that changes this year and I am delighted for all those who will soon have a 21st century infrastructure in their community.”

Cate Bell, a spokesperson for TVNeed4speed and Chairman, West Tytherley and Frenchmoor Parish Council, said: “The new FTTP network being built by Virgin Media across 12 villages in the Test and Dun Valleys is the result of a huge community campaign, championed by several individuals across the area. We are thrilled that Virgin Media recognised the opportunity presented by this rural build. This initiative is a brilliant example of how communities and private companies can work together to make great things happen.”

Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development, Councillor Mel Kendal, said: “Access to superfast broadband for Hampshire homes and businesses is an important contributor to economic prosperity. Reaching more remote areas is a challenge, which is why we have specifically invested £1million in initiatives like the Community Match funding scheme to ensure this happens. The work of the Dun and Test Valley pilot and its community champions is very welcome indeed, demonstrating what can be achieved by residents working collaboratively to find effective broadband solutions in ‘hard to reach’ areas.

“By next year, Hampshire’s Superfast Broadband Programme will have benefited from £12.9million of County Council investment, together with £16.4million from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and £1.25 million from district councils - improving broadband connectivity to more than 100,000 premises and increasing coverage to 97.4% of Hampshire properties.”

Backed by parent company Liberty Global, Virgin Media is extending its ultrafast fibre broadband network to an additional 4 million premises, to reach a total of 17 million homes and businesses. This private investment programme makes Virgin Media the largest new broadband builder in the UK over the past two years, more than all of its competitors combined.

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Notes to Editors

The villages in the Test and Dun Valley area to be lit up by Project Lightning are: Broughton, Chilbolton, Clatford, Firsdown, Goodworth, Houghton, Kings Somborne, Michelmarsh, Stockbridge, Timsbury, West Tytherley, Wherwell and Winterslow.

About Virgin Media

Virgin Media offers four multi award-winning services across the UK and Ireland: broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline.

Our dedicated, ultrafast network delivers the fastest widely-available broadband speeds to homes and businesses and we’re expanding this through our Project Lightning programme, which will extend our network to 17 million premises.

Our interactive Virgin TV service brings live TV, thousands of hours of on-demand programming and the best apps and games to customers through a set-top box, as well as on-the-go through tablets and smartphones.

Virgin Mobile launched the world’s first virtual mobile network and offers fantastic value and innovative services with 4G connectivity. We are also one of the largest fixed-line home phone providers in the UK and Ireland.

Through Virgin Media Business we support entrepreneurs, businesses and the public sector, delivering the fastest widely available broadband speeds and tailor-made services.

Virgin Media is part of Liberty Global, the world’s largest international TV and broadband company. Liberty Global connects over 22 million customers through operations in 12 countries across Europe subscribing to more than 46 million TV, broadband internet and telephony services. It also serves over 6 million mobile subscribers and offers WiFi service through 10 million access points across its footprint.

About Need4Speed Test Valleys

Need4Speed Test and Dun Valleys was formed in early 2016 when members of the local community, including parish councilors, formed a campaign for better broadband. Many of the households in the community receive broadband speeds of 1Mbps or less and the group decided that their efforts would only focus on a truly future proof solution. They approached several corporations asking if they would provide full fibre broadband (‘FTTP’) to households and businesses in the area and Virgin Media seized the initiative.

Press contacts

Jamie Clarke, Virgin Media – 0333 000 2984,

Twitter: @VirginMediaCorp