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Virgin Media UK to Launch 350Mbps Home Broadband Package UPDATE2

Cable ISP Virgin Media (Liberty Global) has published their latest Q4 2017 (calendar) results, which saw them pledge to introduce a new 350Mbps broadband tier and add 159,000 premises to their UK network coverage. Virgin’s total broadband base also grew by +24K in the quarter to total 5,104,300.[1] The final three months of 2017 were fairly quiet for Virgin Media[2], although we did report on some problems with their business service (here[3]) and the decision not to extend their network into Northumberland (here[4]); the latter suggests that they may be adopting a more cautious approach to higher risk deployments.

Meanwhile the operator’s GBP3bn Project Lighting network expansion, which hopes to reach an additional 4 million premises passed (2 million of these will be via FTTP[5]) by the end of 2019 or 2020, delivered 159,000 new premises passed in Q4 (up from 147K in Q3, 127K in Q2 and 102K in Q1 2017). Once completed this should raise their coverage to around 60% of the UK but progress is continuing to lag behind. Readers will recall that VM originally projected to reach “up to” 800,000 extra premises during 2017 but in the end they only did 536,000, although this was set before last year’s problems with overstated progress were discovered (here[6] and here[7]).

In total some 1.1 million of the 4 million extra premises target have so far been completed but this also includes earlier work from 2015 and 2016. Today’s update also included a pledge to introduce a new 350Mbps home broadband package from this spring, which is faster than their current top option of 300Mbps. This will come as little surprise to existing subscribers since the ISP appears to have been supplying the service to customers who requested it for quite a few months and businesses have had it for awhile, but at least it keeps them a little bit ahead of Openreach[8]‘s new 330Mbps capable G.fast.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said:

“We ended 2017 on a high note, as we delivered our best rebased revenue growth of the year in Q4, along with 4.5% rebased OCF growth for the full year and £1.6 billion of Adjusted Free Cash Flow. These results were driven by solid performances in Germany and the U.K., together with continued cost efficiencies from our Liberty GO program. Virgin Media, our largest operation, steadily improved throughout 2017 and posted 5% rebased OCF growth in Q4, its best performance of the year.

We successfully executed the price increase last November and continued rolling out cutting-edge products like our WiFi[9] Connect and V6 set-top boxes, which we will continue to aggressively deploy in 2018. Early last year, we overhauled Project Lightning and subsequently reported progressively improved new build totals, including the delivery of nearly 160,000 premises in Q4 2017, a quarterly record.”

Separately the operator revealed that they had a total Mobile (EE MVNO) customer base of 3,002,800 (up from 2,975,500 in Q3) and 70% of their broadband base are now on an ultrafast (100Mbps+) capable package. We should also add that Virgin Media has 4,440,100 telephone customers in the UK (usually taken with broadband and TV bundles), which is down from 4,455,800 in Q3.

On the financial front (see results) the operator saw quarterly UK revenues of GBP1,187.7m (up from GBP1,137.6m at the same time last year) and their total capital expenditure for Q4 reached GBP108m (down from GBP129.4m at the same time last year).
[10] Elsewhere the Gigabit capable DOCSIS[11] 3.1 network upgrade appears to still be on the back burner, although their existing EuroDOCSIS3 network does have enough capacity to deliver a 500Mbps package if they really wanted; we suspect that Project Lightning is now taking more priority. We’ve also long expected to see faster upload speeds but this too has yet to materialise.

Sadly we’re still awaiting news of their long-in-development latency fix for the SuperHub 3.0 router (here[12]), which has yet to surface despite the problem first being identified all the way back in 2016. Not forgetting the official start of their IPv6 rollout that is expected to begin fairly soon. UPDATE 1:20pm

Thanks to some of our readers for pointing out that a new firmware update for the Hub 3.0 has this week started rolling out that appears to resolve, or at least mask, part of the known latency bug with their router (here[13]). Virgin’s PR team has repeatedly promised to keep us informed about this but they seem to have forgotten to do so. UPDATE 2:08pm

At this stage it’s unclear whether the new firmware only resolves part of the latency issue, such as with DNS lookups (a big chunk of these are lost with the current bug), which would mean that the spike could still be present in TCP/UDP, albeit hidden from certain tests (ICMP and Ping testing).

We are checking with VM.

In reality there may be little that Virgin Media can do to completely resolve this.

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References

  1. ^ Virgin Media (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  2. ^ Virgin Media (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  3. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  4. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  5. ^ FTTP (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  6. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  7. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  8. ^ Openreach (www.openreach.co.uk)
  9. ^ WiFi (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  10. ^ see results (www.libertyglobal.com)
  11. ^ DOCSIS (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  12. ^ here (www.ispreview.co.uk)
  13. ^ here (community.virginmedia.com)

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