The basic comparison of TalkTalk quarterly results which shows a growth of just 5,000 broadband customers hides the reality. The operator in its latest financial results has revealed its LLU based services are available in over 96% of UK households with the number of exchanges unbundled at 2,979 and plans to continue growing.
"Our unbundling programme continued during H1 with 255 new exchanges added extending our reach to 2,979 exchanges and over 96% of the UK population. We plan to unbundle additional exchanges in H2 with potential to extend the programme beyond that as the cost of unbundling exchanges falls and on-net customer ARPU grows, allowing us to continue to profitably extend our geographic reach.
In conjunction with our unbundling programme, we continue to expand the capacity of our network, which we expect to grow by 50-100x over the next 3-5 years. The favourable economics of our network, which allows us to lease dark fibre at very competitive rates, means that we will be able to achieve this capacity expansion within our long run capex guidance of 6% of revenues.
We added 47,000 fibre customers during the quarter to a still modest 142,000. We were pleased with Ofcom’s proposal to introduce a margin squeeze test in 2014. This marks the beginning of a journey that will, in due course, enable us to offer our customers a better value fibre product as it becomes more relevant to more of them."Key Extracts from TalkTalk results
TalkTalk actually shed 29,000 customers from its non-LLU network, but some of these will have been existing customers moving to the LLU network as the network expands. What is clear though is that demand for fibre is starting to become significant with TalkTalk jumping from 95,000 fibre based customers to 142,000 in the last quarter alone. Another boost to the ARPU is that their YouView service is increasing in popularity with 557,000 customers and the aim to have some 1 million on the entry level Essentials TV service in a years time.
The Margin Squeeze Test is crucial to driving the take-up of superfast fibre based services, the UK consumer market has largely remained resistant to increased spending on broadband apart from the areas which had speeds so slow that reliable TV streaming was not possible.
In return for the Margin Squeeze Test from Ofcom perhaps TalkTalk could start to sell the GEA-FTTP services from Openreach in areas where it is available to increase retail competition for consumers. We believe that too date the small footprint has meant the larger operators have not focussed on the full fibre product at all.