Virgin Media has released its Q3/2016 financials and the big news is that rather than 1 in 4 premises in the Project Lightning expansion being FTTP based the ratio will increase to 1 in 2.
"We have concluded that, in many cases, large scale builds deploying narrow trenching to build FTTP are more cost efficient than smaller infill opportunities. As a result, our targeted FTTP build has increased from 25% to 50% of our four million premises target, and the overall cost of the programme remains unchanged."Extract from Liberty Global financials for Virgin Media UK
The downside is that the total footprint is not increasing, but the extra pure fibre properties are to be at the expense of infill, so if you are the handful of properties in a street without Virgin Media the odds of the service expanding to your area just reduced, but if you are in an area with no Virgin Media and property density is high and narrow trenching will work then your odds just increased.
The last quarter saw Project Lightning build its way past another 95,000 premises, taking the total to 250,000 so far this year, and should accelerate if the ambition of 450,000 to 500,000 premises by the end of 2016 is to be met, i.e. another 200,000 to 250,000 in the current quarter.
The 2 million FTTP premises matches the 2 million GEA-FTTP premises that Openreach is planning, and if there is no overlap this would take FTTP coverage in the UK to around 16%. Given other operators will increase their footprint it seems likely that where Openreach FTTP and Virgin Media FTTP does overlap we may still see 14 to 16% FTTP by 2020. In light of the expansion, we will endeavour to flag Project Lightning FTTP as opposed to coax in our availability fibres (i.e. add it to the FTTH/FTTP totals).
In other news, Virgin Media has not just being saying things to keep politicians and campaigners happy, it has grown its broadband customer base from 4,808,000 to 4,867,000 in the last quarter. In terms of the products people are buying over 50% are taking a 100 Mbps or faster product.
As Liberty Global operate in a number of countries we though it might be interesting to look at the relative levels of take-up in each country (NOTE: this is take-up within the Liberty Global footprint, not take-up nationally in each country).
Heading back to the UK, the recent news of the acquisition of the Arqiva Wi-Fi hot-spot business features, and tells us that this means Virgin Media Wi-Fi will grow by 6,500 with some 31,000 hotspots serving those locations currently.