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C&W, Virgin Media sign wholesale broadband deal

LONDON (Reuters) - British telecoms company Cable & Wireless CW.L said on Thursday it had won a four-year deal to supply wholesale broadband access to cable group Virgin Media

VMED.O.

“Cable & Wireless will supply wholesale broadband services to support Virgin Media’s existing off net customers as well as new customers,” the group said in a statement.

The Virgin Media cable network currently covers around 50 percent of the country.

C&W said the deal would give access to around 4 million additional homes, allowing Virgin to offer broadband, phone and television services to parts of the country not currently served by its cable network.

“This deal is ... an important step towards making Virgin Media a truly national brand,” Chief Operating Officer Neil Berkett said in a statement.

“It lays a foundation for us to provide our unique quadplay services to the 50 percent of households outside our cable network.”

C&W, which sold its retail broadband operations last year, operates the second biggest broadband network in the UK after BT Group BT.L covering 4 million homes in the UK.

Virgin Media launched earlier this year from the merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin’s mobile phone division to offer TV, broadband and mobile and fixed-line telephony.

But it has been dogged by a dispute with satellite group BSkyB BSY.L over how much each side should pay for the other's content which has resulted in Sky pulling its basic channels off the cable network.

Virgin Media said earlier this month it had lost customers over the dispute and expected to lose more in the second quarter of the year.

It has previously said a wholesale provider would allow it to keep customers who dropped off the network when they moved house.

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