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By: MarkJ - 25 February, 2010 (7:00 AM)
virgin mediaCable giant Virgin Media UK has reported its latest fourth quarter 2009 results today and revealed plans to roll-out a superfast 100Mbps broadband package by the end of 2010 (prices TBA). The operators total broadband subscriber base increased from 4,027,400 in Q3 to 4,103,500 at the end of last year.

Generally speaking Virgin's broadband base has seen good growth over the last quarter, adding 63,600 new cable broadband subscribers and 12,500 new non-cable (Virgin.net ADSL / Virgin National) subscribers.

Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said:

"In the fourth quarter, we successfully grew both the size and quality of our customer base. New and existing customers responded to an increasingly differentiated product portfolio and competitively priced bundles by buying more, higher value products. This demand underpinned growth across all our product lines and record ARPU which, combined with stable churn, drove a 6% increase in consumer cable revenue and 55% free cash flow growth."

Demand for faster broadband services is also improving with 45% more homes on 20Mbps or higher than a year ago (560,300 total). Subscribers to Virgin's fastest ‘up to’ 50Mbps product rocketed by 81% compared with Q3 and now stands at 41,400. This is due in no small part to their significant 50Mbps price cuts (starts at just £28 per month for a truly unlimited service!), which took place last autumn.

It's also no surprise that Virgin Media has now officially announced its intention to launch a new 'up to' 100Mbps product. The cable giant is keen to stay ahead of its rivals, such as BT and other more niche providers, who are busily building and enabling faster fibre optic broadband networks of their own.

Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said:

"There is nothing we can't do with our fibre optic cable network, and the upcoming launch of our flagship 100Mb service will give our customers the ultimate broadband experience. Just as we led the way by launching the UK's first ever next generation service, we want to keep giving our customers the very best broadband available, by investing in technological innovation and transforming the experience they have when they are online. The launch of Virgin Media's 100Mb service will be a historic moment and will mean the UK will be comparable to other leading broadband nations."

However Virgin Media is not merely content with stopping at 100Mbps and has also announced an expansion of its existing 200Mbps service trials, which is part of the groups longer term UK strategy. Trials of faster upstream speeds, including up to 20Mbps, are also underway as they prepare for increasing demand for faster broadband.

Regular readers may recall that Virgin Media first hinted at the prospect of launching a 200Mbps service by 2012 way back in 2008 (here). Official trials of its first 200Mbps product began a year later (here) in 2009. It's believed that 2012 is still Virgin Media's official target for a 200Mbps service.

The move is significant because 100Mbps is the point at which most experts consider a service to become truly part of the Next Generation Access (NGA) mould. It will also be of concern to BT, which would find it harder to promote headline FTTH / P speeds of 100Mbps. BT’s 100Mbps product will only be able to reach 2.5m people by 2012, while Virgin Media already covers half of the country with its cable service and their ability to deploy 100Mbps quickly should not be underestimated.
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