Virgin Media plumps for expansion as take-up saturates in existing footprint
Virgin Media may not have had the most impressive quarters results due to its cable broadband subscriber base shrinking by 300 (for the quarter ending 30th June 2014, but the operator is not giving up and is looking to expansion of its network footprint to win new customers for its TV, broadband and telephone services.
Virgin Media has been doing some minor expansion for a while with its footprint growing from 12,490,000 homes passed in 2013 to 12,539,700 currently. The news of an extra 100,000 premises that will obtain access to up to 152 Mbps broadband and TV services will be welcomed by those in the areas which are Bethnal Green, Isle of Dogs, Newham and West Ham, further expansion into homes in Stratford, Poplar, Stepney, Bow and East Ham will follow.
"London is earning a reputation for being the Tech capital of Europe and that is why we need to ensure every Londoner is able to access superfast broadband services. It has become a utility that every Londoner expects and this latest expansion is a further welcome step towards making that aim a reality. Improving the connectivity of this great city will be a key part of the Infrastructure Plan for London that my team will be consulting on over the remainder of this summer."The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson
Of course lots of properties (but not all) in these areas will have access to FTTC via Openreach and people are likely to be in 12 or 18 month contracts which will introduce some lag into the speed of sign-ups. The question will be whether people value the higher upload speeds of FTTC services compared to the faster download speeds of cable broadband.
Virgin Media has 4,596,200 broadband customers, 108,700 are the old Virgin Media National ADSL network who are shrinking in number fast, 12,000 left in the last quarter. Some 2.1 million cable customers (47%) are now on the 50 Mbps or faster services and this should grow as the upgrade programme moves on. The demand for ultra-fast speeds is evidenced by 15% of new customers signing up to the fastest 152 Mbps service, and 40% joining on the 100 Mbps or faster tier. Whether is people buying according to their broadband needs, or good marketing is unknown.
Strangely Virgin Media is attempting to redefine 'superfast speeds' as meaning 50 Mbps or faster, which will muddy the already confused situation where Ofcom and UK Government use a figure of 24 Mbps and the European Union in its Digital Agenda plans have stuck with 30 Mbps for a few years now.
The expansion of Virgin Media will be interesting to watch, but the wider picture is about what the Mayor of London is going to do about those areas of London where commercial operators have shown little interest to date, and landlords charging expensive wayleave or refusing to agree, thus stopping people and businesses getting services.
Update 10am We enquired about the situation with regards to flats in the expansion area, and Virgin Media has replied quickly to say yes flats will be included in the expansion and some will be sizeable blocks of flats too.