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Virgin Media Extends UK Network by 80,000 Premises in Q1 2021

Thursday, May 6th, 2021 (7:33 am) - Score 3,816

Broadband ISP and TV provider Virgin Media UK (Liberty Global) has just published their latest Q1 2021 results, which saw their network coverage extend to another 80,000 premises (their slowest quarterly build so far) and their internet access base add +38,500 customers (up from +54.7k last quarter) to total 5,458,600.

The past quarter has been another interesting one for Virgin Media, which they kicked off by making their new TV 360 (IPTV) platform available to all existing customers (here) and testing a prototype of the Infinera XR Optics technology to boost network capacity speeds up to 400Gbps over a single fibre (here).

On top of that they’ve secured provisional approval from the competition authorities for their merger with O2 (here), expanded use of Teleste‘s Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) technology to boost the performance of their broadband network (here) and conducted another live customer trial of 2.2Gbps speeds (here). The operator has also begun to trial a new streaming entertainment service (here).

We also saw further hints of Liberty Global’s ambition to offer wholesale access to Virgin Media’s UK broadband network (here), although the operator has yet to formally unveil their plans on this front. Otherwise, we note that VM’s mobile (Virgin Mobile) and internet base continues to grow, while their fixed line phone and video (TV) customers are still in decline.

Quarterly UK Customer Figures for Q1 2021
5,458,600 Internet – (up from 5,420,100 in Q4 2020)
4,419,300 Phone / VoIP – (down from 4,463,200)
3,407,700 Mobile – (up from 3,358,300)
3,446,600 Video / TV – (down from 3,498,000)

The results also included an update on the pace of their Project Lightning network roll-out, which has so far added a total of over 2.6 million UK premises since 2015/16 and that includes another 80,000 premises (this should all be FTTP) that were added to their network coverage during the first quarter of 2021 (down from 115,000 in Q4 2020). This will have been impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown, although Q1 is historically one of their slowest quarters for build activity and 80k is the lowest we’ve seen it in years.

As it stands Virgin Media has civil engineering contracts that will see their build continue for the next few years, and they have big plans for the future. Last year the operator spoke of their “ambition to accelerate investments and connect a further 7 million homes to gigabit broadband in the coming years,” although the details of this will depend upon the outcome of their merger with O2 (here).

Project Lightning Rollout Since 2017
Q1 2021 = 80,000 Premises (impacted by COVID-19 lockdown)
Q4 2020 = 115,000 Premises (some impact from COVID-19)
Q3 2020 = 125,000 Premises
Q2 2020 = 93,000 Premises (impacted by COVID-19 lockdown)
Q1 2020 = 93,000 Premises (some impact from COVID-19)
Q4 2019 = 154,000 Premises
Q3 2019 = 119,000 Premises
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: Virgin’s UK network now covers a total of 15,386,600 UK homes passed.

The latest cost per premises estimate for their network expansion remains at c.£590, which is expected to fall further as they make greater use of Openreach’s Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) product. On top of that they’ve also been achieving a respectable 30-35% penetration after 3 years.

On the financial front Virgin Media reported total quarterly revenue of £1,268.8m (down from £1,336.6m in the previous quarter), although we should add that this particular figure includes their Ireland operations too as there’s no split for the UK.

Lutz Schüler, CEO of Virgin Media, said:

“We’ve hit the ground running this year, sustaining the momentum we saw in 2020 and delivering a rock-solid performance.

The demand for our services has never been clearer. Continued investment and innovation resulted in our strongest first quarter customer additions since 2017, record-low Q1 cable churn, an acceleration in converged bundle growth and a 300% boost in new broadband subscribers.

A surge in mobile handset sales, coupled with strong top-line growth in B2B, drove our best overall revenue increase in nine quarters. This is combined with sustained investment in gigabit network expansion, digital transformation and customer service – all of which are instrumental components in establishing a stronger and nimbler business for the future

As we look ahead, we remain focused on delivering for our customers and are ready and raring to go pending clearance of the proposed combination with O2.”

Otherwise, it’s noted that the average speed across their UK broadband base has increased again to 186Mbps (vs 174Mbps in Q4 2020), while data consumption during the quarter increased 40% year-on-year. The operator also added 335,000 5G subscribers following our UK launch via Vodafone on 25th January.

Finally, Virgin Media said they’re still “on track for network wide gigabit coverage by the end of 2021,” which reflects the ongoing rollout of their new DOCSIS 3.1 network upgrade. We note that a number of areas have recently been enabled for this, although they appear to have stopped issuing regular updates about its progress (at least we haven’t had one for months).


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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
9 Responses
  1. Winston Smith says:

    Do you have any details on which areas have been gigabit enabled? There hasn’t been an announcement for 5 months.

    1. Matt says:

      And you won’t no like thay will tell us mear mortals anything I’m still waiting so goodluck

  2. Ig Og says:

    Cancel virgin media, total rip off. Call 0800 952 2277 to cancel. Takes 30 days but so worth it.

  3. JP says:

    It looks like the 5G take up was as much as I had thought then, I’ve certainly seen the change to Vodafone’s network since the Virgin Mobile base acqusition,

    However Vodafone (in their host areas atleast) definately have been busy this past year and continue to do work now to boost the capacity and performance of their network to take host to the new users of the network, and this has been quite successful in most areas,

    I can’t say I’ve seen any bandwdith/congestion issues in Vodafone host areas yet, though where O2 hosts the network their is some issues.

    It’s a shame the O2 host areas are not performing as strongly as Vodafone would like but in does appear an unwinding of the CTIL agreement is now in the early days or becoming reality.

  4. Matt says:

    And hear come the slow speeds and over utlizaion why can’t thay relise there’s still a network that needs upgrading

  5. Ex Telecom Engineer says:

    The problem for Virgin Media is the legacy Technology in their CTV Franchise areas. Once BT complete their FTTP rollouts, most of the access network will be passive, so no on the street power requirements. With the OLT’s at the Head end sites, and the customers powering the ONT’s, and only Fibre in between the two, Openreach’s network will be much cheaper to run and greener than VM’s. The PSTN switch off will remove most of the Exchange buildings and all the Exchange equipment, leaving Openreach with a very simple network structure.
    Imagine how easy it will be for BT/Openreach to manage a network with just OLT’s, ONT’s, the Fibre in between, and all the complex configuration done within the cloud in software. No wonder BT are talking about £2 Billion annual cost savings post 2025.

  6. ianh says:

    They seem to be backfilling large areas of North Tyneside at the moment….blowing right past my little island of an estate!

    Thankfully cityfibre are coming to relieve me from fttc (not that its bad). Tonnes of purple popping up daily now

  7. Rupert Simcoe-Walker says:

    So is this properties they have signed up or just areas they have now layed fibre in the street? They did our street (and larger area) just before Christmas but as fas as I know nobody has taken the service yet. I tried to but they won’t dig up my drive so I stuck with FTTC which actualy give me faster upload than virgin.

  8. Cherif says:

    Do not trust virginmedia it is just a lie
    Go and have look at then cabinets and engineers pure rubbish or ask them about anything to do with internet protocol.
    The only thing they care about is sales and raf

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