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Virgin Media Hit 5.266 Million UK Broadband Users as Network Grows

Thursday, August 8th, 2019 (7:10 am) - Score 6,000

Cable ISP Virgin Media (Liberty Global) added another +7,100 UK customers to their broadband network during the second quarter of 2019 (down from +35K in Q1), which takes their total base to 5,266,700. Over the same period their network has deployed to cover another 130,000 premises (up from +102K last quarter).

The main developments since Virgin’s last quarterly report have included their move to gobble up Sky Broadband’s old trial FTTH network in Derbyshire (here), as well as our report on the cities that look likely to be included in their initial DOCSIS 3.1 orientated “gigabit cities” deployment (here), a package refresh (here) and a leak of their plans to launch a new cloud based user interface for their Hub 3.0 routers (here).

In keeping with that DOCSIS 3.1 news, Virgin Media also confirmed that their rollout of 1Gbps speeds would start in Southampton and reach the rest of their network by 2021 (here). Meanwhile today’s results reveal that the pace of their Project Lightning network expansion has increased during the second quarter of 2019, which saw them add 130,000 extra premises to their network coverage (over 1.8 million UK premises added since 2015/16).

The original aim of this effort was to cover 4 million additional premises (17 million total or c.60%+ of the UK) by the end of 2020 (later revised to 2019 before it was discovered in 2017 that they’d erroneously overstated progress), although c.2 million+ now seems to be a safer bet for the end of 2019 and possibly 3-4 million+ at a later date (here).

Officially Virgin remain coy about how far they intend to go with Project Lightning but the recent Avonline Networks deal (here) confirmed that they intend to keep building out their network until at least 2023. So they may yet reach the original 4 million goal, albeit significantly later than originally planned and possibly some of this could end up being done via a new alternative network company (here).

Project Lightning Rollout Since 2017
Q2 2019 = 130,000 Premises
Q1 2019 = 102,000 Premises
Q4 2018 = 144,000 Premises
Q3 2018 = 109,000 Premises
Q2 2018 = 118,000 Premises
Q1 2018 = 111,000 Premises (likely impacted by heavy snow)
Q4 2017 = 159,000 Premises
Q3 2017 = 147,000 Premises
Q2 2017 = 127,000 Premises
Q1 2017 = 102,000 Premises

NOTE: Q1 is traditionally a slower quarter for build due to various issues (weather, holidays etc.). The current cumulative cost per premises is c.£690 (just the build costs would be £660) and hitting 30-35% penetration after 3 years.

Initially much of this build focused upon extending Virgin’s already very capable Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) network, although we note that last year 60% of their build was done with Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP / RFoG) technology and in Q1 2019 this had increased to 86%. No figure for this is given today for Q2.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said:

“We are also focused on enhancing the strategic and financial value of our core operating businesses, particularly Virgin Media which remains the most advanced broadband and fixed/mobile provider in the U.K. with substantial opportunities for expansion and growth. With 500 Mbps already available to nearly 15 million homes and 1 Gbps speeds just around the corner, Virgin Media is miles ahead of other U.K. operators in providing ultrafast broadband, both today and into the future.”

The operator also confirmed that they had a total Mobile (EE MVNO) customer base of 3,059,000 (up from 3,030,600 last quarter) and 79% of their broadband base is now on an ultrafast (100Mbps+) capable package (unchanged from last quarter). Elsewhere Virgin had 4,641,000 phone / VoIP customers in the UK (up from 4,617,300) and 3,822,100 video / TV users (down from 3,846,700).

Virgin Media reported quarterly revenue of £1,279.3m and it’s worth noting that Q2 (calendar) tends to be a seasonally slow one, which is often due to the movement of students (going back home for the summer and cancelling contracts etc.).

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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.
Leave a Comment
25 Responses
  1. Archie says:

    I think some people are oblivious to Virgin being in their area. Where I’m from originally I see barely anyone with a box outside which is a shame because the speed varies massively there with BT. Someone I know there gets about 45 meg whereas they could be getting nearly 600 meg if they chose to go with Virgin’s FTTP.

    1. Mat says:

      It depends on the requirements of the user, I can get 300mbps+ from virgin, but choose 70mbps FTTC, due to factors like latency, peak hour throttling, my own modem etc

      In my area Wimbledon, Virgin are terrrible, anything going to the Croydon exchange has suffered lots of issue over the last 10 years, just because you can get fast speed doesn’t mean the quality of the circuit is any good.

    2. Archie says:

      @Matt I agree with you about latency. BT definitely have the edge there.

      However, in the area I live the other things you’ve described are not a problem. In this case BT are the inferior product, as per my comment.

    3. Andy says:

      After Virgin cabled my street they had a marketing blitz, we had letters and leaflets every few weeks for several months or more. If anyone managed to missed them digging up the pavements, you couldn’t miss the adverts.

      Personally I’ve not switched because with Openreach network there’s plenty of competition to keep the price down and it’s easy to switch. With cable you’re locked in and switching is difficult, the initial deals are ok but the regular charges look expensive, particularly if you don’t need the high data rates.

      Shame they never launched their basic, budget service.

    4. Estelle says:

      It’s not available in my area and they’ve been promising it since 1997.

    5. beany says:

      “peak hour throttling”

      There is no throttling on upload or download on VM and has not been for 2+years.

  2. Lee says:

    Virgin has been grossly over capacity in my area for years now. Adding more to the network seems crazy when they cannot supply a reliable service. Before I ended my contract (recently) I paid for 100Mbps and received 25Mbps (lower at peak times). Virgins response “Sorry, nothing we can do due to being over capacity in your area”. I now get the same speed of 25Mbps via copper cable for half the price of Virgin.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Which area is this Lee?

    2. Lee says:

      St Helens on Merseyside. My neighbors are all in the same boat. Always virgin repair vans around the area due to the poor broadband. Yet when you go into the shop, they pull up a website and say that the area works perfect and I can get speeds of up to 500Mbps in my area.

    3. Craig says:

      I’m in St Helens (WA9) and reach over 350Mbps even at peak time. Virgin Media was awful in this area a couple of years ago but is much better now.

  3. Dan says:

    I’ve been a Virgin Media customer for many years, in my area their broadband services are unrivalled and we never experience any issues. I would be so disappointed if we moved to an area that their network isn’t available so glad to read that they are continuing to expand.

    1. Moses says:

      Fully agree

  4. Virgin media says:

    They want to fix the issues we in the dy5 area experienced.
    First we were hit by 3 days if no home phoneline working.
    Then a week later I had an engaged tone that happened for several day after. The strange issue allowed me to dial out but not receive any incoming calls.
    Of course I was angry because my mother needed my help as dad was taken urgently to hospital.
    I was angry once I was made aware of issue.i picked my phone up and it allowed me to dial out so I rang them while being passed around for almost two and a half hours until I got disconection team who did something there end and allowed me to receive calls again.
    While on there I changed my package and got better TV channels same phone connection and internet speed for £9.00 less a month.
    So being honest threaten to leave and they will bend over to do something to appease you for a cheaper price.
    But I will be honest and say there handling of calls is the worst in the world being passed to foreign speaking agent who really do not do anything to help only confuse you even more because you can’t understand there language,it’s a discusting service worst ever.
    Better service in the old days wene technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now.
    2hrs 30 minuits is a bloody joke to anyone. My arms were hurting badly my arthritis in my hands caused my discomfort.
    No compensation for phone issues experienced.
    When I move in not going back with virgin and hopefully il have a working Arial at next place this house has areal cut of on roof and nobody want to climb up our roof due to insurance issues dispite only being two story.
    No virgin are a bad company when it comes to wanting help I’ve had to call them many times over The 5yrs at my home.always system failures or no phoneline then no internet them they restrict my speeds once I play games or watch Amazon etc.i know my bandwidth is being throttled at source because there own tech guys who visit for issues tell me and that the box is full and can’t handle the load in it,but there instructed to add more to the box leading to further issues all over again.
    Not impressed 2 out of 10 is my rating I’m afraid.
    Thanks for reading my experience faced with virgin media.

    1. beany says:

      ” My arms were hurting badly my arthritis in my hands caused my discomfort.”

      I dread to think how they felt after that long winded jack-and-nory tale you managed to type.

  5. P says:

    Have to agree with Dan here. In our area (Fife) VM deliver consistent speeds (currently on 350 tier with my SamKnows monitor consistently recording 384Mbps). I haven’t had a bad experience with their customer service (yet!). They’ve always been helpful and got me sorted (in fact no better or worse than either BT or TalkTalk both of which I have been a customer of in the past)

  6. Roger_Gooner says:

    As VM’s broadband customer numbers increases its Pay TV customer numbers falls. I find this surprising as people are still voraciously consuming linear TV and VOD but perhaps the Amazon Prime Video app which was recently released on the V6 will make a difference.

  7. CarlT says:

    Not a surprise TV subs are done. Same thing is happening to cable companies all over the developed world: people cutting the cord and using OTT services instead.

  8. SimonR says:

    People saying their area is great – that’s good for you, and I always get a good service from them too. However, a street or so down they might be over-subscribed and putting splitters in the box and moving them around until the complaining stops.

    At least that’s what I understood to be happening a few years ago – I could well be wrong, and this may not be happening. Ultimately you seem to either get a great service from VM or you don’t.

    I’ll be leaving them as soon as I’m able though, because I don’t like to give my custom to companies that throw their weight around (like they have done recently in Southampton). I’m fortunate though in that I don’t need their TV or phone package, and a synchronous FTTP is being installed.

  9. FibreBubble says:

    My observations of Lightning areas suggests very poor take up. These figures appear to agree.

    1. beany says:

      Q2 is always slow for all providers as the news item mentions. 35,000 + increase in subs in Q1 and a rollout to 107,000 in Q1 is almost a 33% percent take up, which is pretty good. Other BIG players like BT doing FTTP would love to have those figures just for their fibre.

    2. CarlT says:

      Your observations need to be given more time. I guesstimate it to be 40% here, a couple of years after build.

      I refer to the wider area with that. The area had VDSL and has G.fast though that isn’t really an issue.

  10. P says:

    Take up is likely to be slow at first in ligntning areas as many people (like I was) will be tied into contracts with their existing supplier (I was two months into an eighteem month contract for broadband and had just recontracted with Sky for TV so had to wait until I could move.) During the intervening time more people in the street switched so I would say take up round here (about two years after VM became available) is about 30% (judging by the amount of brown boxes housing the ONT on people’s walls)

  11. Kev says:

    Well I can’t even get 350Mbps. Some of my street can but the node the remainder of the street is on, has capacity issues. They’ve been like this for over a year. I’ve an open complaint because peak speeds go as low as 25Mbps. I just want to give them more money but it appears that they don’t want it 🙁 This is KY2 in Fife, Scotland.

  12. Steve says:

    Virgins customer service is abysmal and rather than investing in new areas they should first upgrade the existing areas who have substandard exchanges.

    Virgin was once a high premium product, now its a high priced product that provides a pound shop service.

  13. Steve says:

    I’m just about to leave virgin in a week we had the superhub 2 speed was OK so we thought upgrade to the new hub 3 much faster speed 300 plus downloads thought ideal but when we had nothing but trouble always buffering lack of connection signal loss terrible didn’t get it on the superhub 2 just hub 3 even with virgin boosters still no good there service on the phone is terrible we been with virgin for 18 years there so expensive now just not worth it gone to freeview now and just changed to bt superfast less than half the cost of just waiting for connection virgin had enough!!!!!

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