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7 million homes to be connected to fibre in new joint venture network

Liberty Global, Telefónica Infra, and InfraVia will build and operate the network, which aims for a 2026 finish date

Bands of light flow towards the camera, across a dark street

A new fibre network servicing up to 7 million UK homes has been announced as part of a joint venture between telecommunications giant Liberty Global, fellow telco Telefónica Infra, and private equity firm InfraVia.

By 2026, the partnership is set to roll out fibre to 5 million homes that are not currently connected to Virgin Media O2’s network. A further 2 million homes have been identified as expansion targets for a point after this date.

This would prove a significant boost for the UK’s gigabit internet availability, benefiting customers as well as rural businesses underserved by current infrastructure.

The fibre network is expected to offer fibre to the home access to existing internet service providers (ISPs), with Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) already an operating client. Added on to VMO2’s existing network, this will expand the company’s fibre reach to approximately 80% of UK homes.

For the initial stage, it's estimated that £4.5 billion will need to be invested, which will be funded pro rata by the three partners, with up to £1.4 billion in aggregate, over a four to five year period.

Liberty Global and Telefónica will hold a joint 50% stake in the venture by way of a holding company, and InfraVia will hold the remaining 50%.

The announcement comes at a time of stagnation in UK fibre rollout, with a report this year criticising the lack of progress on the part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to meet its 2025 broadband coverage targets.

However others in the industry, such as telecommunications service provider CityFibre, have argued that overbuilding by Openreach and VMO2 is stifling competition within the UK.

“This landmark agreement with Liberty Global, Telefonica and InfraVia will expand our FTTH footprint to millions of new UK homes, creating the undisputed second national fibre network in the UK,” said Mike Fries, CEO and vice chairman of Liberty Global.

“VMO2 has already committed to upgrading its entire existing 16 million footprint to FTTH. This JV will take our aggregate FTTH footprint to up to 23 million homes, reaching around 80% of the UK.”

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