Virgin Media has announced a four-year agreement with Cable & Wireless to extend its services beyond its cable network over broadband telephone lines. It could offer access to up to 4 million additional homes not currently served by its cable network, doubling its potential market in the United Kingdom.

Cable & Wireless will become the exclusive wholesale provider of unbundled local loop services to Virgin Media until 2011. Through its footprint of telephone exchanges in which it has equipment installed, Cable & Wireless will supply wholesale broadband services to support both new and existing customers of Virgin Media beyond its cable network.

Neil Berkett, chief operating officer for Virgin Media, said it is an important step towards making Virgin Media a national brand. He said it lays the foundation to provide its services to the 50% of households in the UK outside its cable network.

The company is planning to launch an IPTV or internet protocol television service in 2008, including pay broadcast channels and video-on-demand services to customers on unbundled exchanges outside its cable areas.

The announcement comes as BT regained its position as the larges broadband provider in the country, with over a quarter of the market.