Cable operator Virgin Media (Liberty Global) has published their latest results to the end of 2016 (Q4), which saw their broadband base grow by +48.8K in the quarter (down from +59.9K in Q3) to total 4,916,700 customers. Some 215,000 extra premises have also been added to their network coverage.
So far the provider’s on-going £3bn Project Lighting network expansion, which aims to cover 17 million UK premises by 2019 (i.e. 4 million extra premises [2 million via FTTP] – boosting UK coverage to around 60-65%), has already reached 250,000 premises in 2015. Since then they’ve added 70,000 during Q1 2016, then 85,000 in Q2, 95,000 in Q3 and now 215,000 in the final quarter of last year.
Project Lightning Costs (Report Extract)
During 2016, we spent £377 million in total as part of our Network Expansion Program, which includes build costs of approximately £290 million related to the 465,000 premises added as well as other network and CPE related spend and build costs for premises in progress that are not included in our homes passed.
As a result of all this work Virgin Media’s network currently covers around 14 million UK premises and they expect to add a total of “up to” 800,000 extra homes and businesses to their coverage in 2017. However the slower quarterly growth in broadband subscribers has been put down to the impact of their November 2016 price hikes (here).
It’s also been a fairly busy quarter in other areas too, not least with the operator launching its new 4G mobile service (here) and a new / extended Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) contract with EE /BT (here). Finally they’ve also launched their new 4K capable V6 TV Set-Top-Box (here).
Other Report Highlights
* The average speed taken by Virgin’s U.K. broadband base has increased 22% YoY to over 100Mbps and monthly data consumption has increased to 160GB (GigaBytes) per month.
* Integration of Arqiva WiFi is underway following acquisition in Q4; its relaunch under the Virgin Media brand in February 2017 is expected to present strategic benefits to their [business to business] and consumer operations.
* 4G subscriptions taken by over 5% of Virgin’s U.K. mobile base by end of 2016 (4G was only launched in November 2016).
Elsewhere Virgin Media reported that they now have a total of 3,022,300 mobile customers on their EE based Virgin Mobile platform in the UK (down slightly from 3,028,400 last quarter) and 3,729,100 take their TV / video services (up from 3,723,500). On the financial front Virgin Media also delivered total quarterly UK revenue of £1,137.6m (up from £1,122.6m at the same time last year).
However we’re still waiting to hear about their plans for the new 300Mbps residential broadband package that exists for some but not all of their cable base. Plus a big question mark continues to hang over their long running efforts to turn existing SuperHub broadband routers into public WiFi hotspots (here). However trial users are currently testing a new beta firmware for the public / shared WiFi service.
Towards the end of 2017 we’re also expecting Virgin Media to start the commercial UK roll-out of their next generation DOCSIS 3.1 technology (details), which should be a fairly quick and cheap upgrade. However today’s results didn’t include any mention of this, which isn’t a surprise because VM has a tendency to keep everything under wraps until the very last minute.
We should also point out that Virgin Media (UK and Ireland) currently has total third-party debt and capital lease obligations of £12,145.9m. More here.