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Virgin Media UK Cable Rollout Slows as Broadband Users Top 5.13m

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018 (7:32 am) - Score 8,410
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Cable provider Virgin Media (Liberty Global) has published their latest Q1 2018 (calendar) results, which saw them add +31,200 broadband subscribers in the quarter to total 5,135,500 (up from the +24K added in Q4 2017) and extend their cable network to another 111,000 UK premises.

Generally speaking most of the main developments for Virgin Media since there last financial update (posted in February) have centred around the operator’s £3bn Project Lighting network expansion, which has sadly hit a few snags in different parts of the United Kingdom (here, here and here) and progress is continuing to lag behind after previously being overstated (here and here).

The operator hopes to reach an additional 4 million premises passed (2 million of these will be via FTTP) by the end of 2019 or 2020 and they’ve just delivered 111,000 new premises passed in Q1 2018 (down sharply from 159K in Q4 2017, 147K in Q3 and 127K in Q2 but up from 102K in Q1 last year). Once completed this should raise their coverage to around 60% of the UK. So far they’ve completed 1.2 million premises in total.

We note that during Q1 2018, in addition to their 111,000 Project Lightning build, Virgin recognised in their program-to-date totals a further 10,800 premises where construction was completed in prior periods, but serviceability was confirmed in the current period. But even factoring this in their progress still slowed in Q1, although we did have two Beasts from the East to contend with (heavy snow etc.).

Separately the operator revealed that they had a total Mobile (EE MVNO) customer base of 3,018,000 (up from 3,002,800 at the end of 2017) and 73% of their broadband base are now on an ultrafast (100Mbps+) capable package (up from 70%). We should also add that Virgin Media has 4,446,000 telephone customers in the UK (up from 4,440,100 in Q4 2017) and 3,840,000 video / TV users.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said:

“On the innovation front, we remain at the forefront of delivering cutting-edge products and services. Earlier this month in Bochum, Germany, we launched our first gigabit broadband service powered by Docsis 3.1 technology. In addition, nearly half of our video and broadband bases now enjoy a next-generation set top and/or a WiFi connect box. Of course, we will continue to deploy market-leading products while readying our fiber-rich networks for Docsis 3.1 rollouts across Europe.”

The news that Germany has become Liberty Global’s first cable operator to receive a 1Gbps broadband service via DOCSIS 3.1 technology is positive, although they still appear to be behind their original 2018 rollout target (here). On top of that there’s no word on when we might see the first customer trials in the UK. The existing EuroDOCSIS3 network that Virgin Media uses could however reach 500Mbps without DOCSIS3.1.

Likewise there’s no new information on their IPv6 roll-out plan in today’s update (admittedly this is one of those technical upgrades that rarely makes it into financial updates), although we did recently get some extra detail about the technology side (here) and we’ve seen a larger pool of users that now appear to be testing it. The rollout shouldn’t be far behind.

On the financial front the operator saw quarterly UK revenues of £1,181.6m (up from £1,128.5m at the same time last year) and their total capital expenditure for Q1 reached £130.5m (same as Q1 last year).

Separately Vodafone has today agreed to acquire Liberty Global’s operations in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania for an enterprise value of €18.4 billion. We’ve long said that Voda would be a good fit for Virgin Media in the UK too but so far this has not turned into a tangible agreement like it has elsewhere in Europe.

Voda’s Group CEO, Vittorio Colao, said:

“This transaction will create the first truly converged pan-European champion of competition. It represents a step change in Europe’s transition to a Gigabit Society and a transformative combination for Vodafone that will generate significant value for shareholders.

We are committed to accelerating and deepening investment in next generation mobile and fixed networks, building on Vodafone’s track record of ensuring that customers benefit from the choice of a strong and sustainable challenger to dominant incumbent operators.

Vodafone will become Europe’s leading next generation network owner, serving the largest number of mobile customers and households across the EU.”

The above move means that Vodafone will become one of the leading next generation network (“NGN”) owners in Europe, with 54 million cable/fibre homes ‘on-net’ and a total NGN reach of 110 million homes and businesses, including wholesale arrangements. Having a good fixed line base is a good boost for both their mobile network (data capacity etc.) and fibre optic coverage ambitions.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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9 Responses
  1. Avatar chrisp

    i wonder IF VM & VF will merge?
    2 bad SP’s joining together won’t be a positive for us consumers.

    There are already large numbers of reports of VF BB being slow at peak times, assumingly due to over subscription due to their aggressive pricing. VM’s network is no better and their appalling upload speeds are the poisoned chalice to their advertised 100Mbs download speeds.

  2. Avatar DevonPaddler

    Not sure it’s slowing – like for like in Q1 is growing despite the weather challenges. You’d have to look at Q2 2018 to tell any trend

  3. Avatar AJ

    My area (Chester) has been cancelled from the rollout. Seems they are cutting back in some areas.

    • Avatar Techman

      How did you find this out? The website used to say my area was included in the roll out but doesnt say anything now

    • Avatar AJ

      From the forums. It is currently placed on stop. I am unsure if I am able to place external links on this website. However, I have added below what they said. I also live in Saughall.

      This address is part of one of the largest Lightning projects in the country (Chester-Wrexham). It is on NBU 67766. This is not currently targeted for this year, as the Build is focusing on Wrexham at this stage.

      It is down as being on the STOP list, suggesting that currently this part of the project is not financially viable. So unfortunately no concrete answer I’m afraid, but if it does go to build, it won’t be in 2019.

    • Avatar DR

      I drove through Saughall today and notice most of the Openreach PCP cabinets have G.Fast pods attached! So jealous! 🙂

      Also the cabinet on the junction of Hermitate Road/Meadows Lane is having a G.Fast pod installed right now as I type. So it doesn’t look like it’s all doom and gloom, at least with G.Fast you’ll still have similar if not faster speeds as VM, albeit over copper instead of fibre.

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