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Behind Schedule Virgin Media Cable Network Grows 1 Million Premises

Monday, February 5th, 2018 (8:17 am) - Score 6,043

Cable ISP Virgin Media (Liberty Global) has officially passed an additional 1 million UK premises as part of their £3bn Project Lightning network extension, which is bringing ultrafast broadband and TV services to 4 million extra homes and businesses. But it’s still behind schedule.

The operator’s expansion was first announced in February 2015 and back then it was expected to bring their predominantly urban focused Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) based EuroDOCSIS network to 17 million premises (60%+ coverage of the UK) by 2020 (here), which would add 4 million premises to their existing cable coverage.

In April 2016 the operator optimistically revised their plan by pledging that 2 million premises in the new expansion would also be reached by using Gigabit capable Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) technology via Radio Frequency over Glass (RFoG). On top of that they then pulled the expected completion date forward from 2020 to 2019 (here).

Today The Times (paywall) carries word that “more than” 1 million premises have now been reached by the project and the millionth property was a home in Walsall (West Midlands of England). The operator’s CEO, Tom Mockridge, said: “It’s a big job, but we are pleased with the outcome.”

The positive news is a significant milestone and we should learn the exact figure next week when Virgin Media’s full year results are published, although their progress is still behind schedule. The operator ended Q3 2017 with a total of 943,000 premises passed since the build began, but they only added 376,000 premises during the first three quarters of 2017 (the original projection was to reach “up to” 800,000 in 2017).

Unfortunately VM took a hit last year after they admitted to having overstated the progress of their build (here and here). Since then additional resources have been committed to help ramp-up their rollout and we’ve also seen them adopt an increasingly cautious approach when considering more difficult deployment areas (here). On top of that Virgin Media refuses to say how many FTTP premises have been completed.

Overall we still expect Virgin Media to complete 4 million premises, although their original completion target for the end of 2020 now seems more viable than the 2019 goal. Tom Mockridge has also called on the government to cut red tape and reform the wayleaves system, which would help them to more easily run their cables into properties (e.g. large apartment buildings) that are owned by local councils or private landlords.

Virgin Media claims that around 750,000 flats are being “forgotten” because of delays with related permissions and that Openreach (BT) has an advantage in this area because their existing copper line network is often already present in such buildings.

In fairness, Openreach’s VDSL2 or G.fast based Fibre-to-the-Basement style broadband upgrades (these harness their existing copper network to deliver superfast or ultrafast broadband) may also sometimes require special permission in order to properly cater for such buildings (e.g. installing DSLAMs in the basement or when adding FTTP lines).

Some cities, such as London, have already tried to tackle such problems by standardising wayleave agreements, but clearly that doesn’t completely resolve the issue. Some landlords will always be more cooperative than others.

Leave a Comment
8 Responses
  1. Avatar Paul W says:

    Is there any way of finding out if vm will be doing my Street so I can get vm?

    1. Avatar Paul W says:

      I’m aware of that Mark, just wondered if there was a website that holds info on the areas they are going to be cabling?

    2. Avatar Graeme Spence says:

      Goto roadworks.org and set the filter times way in advance, gives you an estimated timescale for VM. You’ll see their works.

    3. Avatar Bawlk says:

      I would also like to find out as they started digging up my street August last year missed a few rows of houses, installed a few cabinets then just vanished. vm site used to say coming soon until they vanished and now it says not available.

  2. Avatar CarlT says:

    Not sure they don’t just lower the total number of premises they cover if they end up overrunning the budget.

    There are a lot of issues causing them to struggle to keep to budget.

  3. Avatar John says:

    VM installing FTTP to 6000 premises here, at current rate their about 6 months behind.

  4. Avatar Dudo says:

    I have the same issue as Bawlk. I looked on roadworks.org 12 months out but it shows nothing. VM has installed tubes and cabinets to part of the street, they held an information event before Christmas and then nothing…

    I would really like to to get an ETA, but not sure where to get that?

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