30,000 broadband additions for Virgin Media in Q2 2018
The Q2 2018 results from Virgin Media covering the UK and Ireland operation reports that the company has some 5.9 million cable customers consuming 14.5 million services (one or more from broadband, video and telephone).
The number of new broadband customers was 30,000, which is pretty much the same as Q1 when 31,200 were added. The Project Lightning continues to expand the network footprint either by new RFOG infrastructure (Fibre to the Premises with converter to work with existing DOCSIS hardware) or extending the existing hybrid fibre coax network and the financials report they passed an additional 118,000 premises.
The other main key statistic from the results, unless you are a shareholder or an accountant is that 76% of the broadband customer base is subscribed to a 100 Mbps or faster service.
Looking behind the numbers and comparing them to some of the data we hold, in the last three months we have added 116,520 premises of Virgin Media broadband to our coverage statistics, this is not going to be all the premises that Virgin Media delivered to in Q2 as we are playing catch-up a little on the Virgin Media footprint. The reason for the catch-up is that the focus is much more on verifying the Openreach footprint due to the BDUK work, but it is still a good sign that we are seeing significant amounts of roll-out now from Virgin Media. The size of the roll-out in the last quarter though does throw the new broadband customer figure into a less positive light, since if all 30,000 new additions were in the new marketable premises that would be a take-up rate of 25%, but the 30,000 is actually from a footprint of over 14 million premises.
On the 76% over 100 Mbps, analysis of the Q2 speed test results we have shows 58.2% on a 100 Mbps or faster service based on our product detection, with the split being VIVID 350 0.5%, VIVID 200 7.7%, VIVID 150 17.9%, VIVID 100 32.1%, 70 Mbps 21.4%, 50 Mbps 20.5%. The most likely reason for the lower figures is a mixture of users testing over Wi-Fi masking the actual service and continued problems with a number of routes out of the Virgin Media network. The impact of good versus bad speed tests is apparently when you compare the median in Q2 of 51.5 Mbps for cable services versus the clean version at 62.2 Mbps (clean meaning tests with worse than grade A quality are rejected), in previous quarters this gap was running at 4 to 5 Mbps so it will be interesting to see if the increased gap continues, the theory is that the wider the gap the more speed problems users are be seeing.
An interesting observation exists around the new RFOG areas, we do attempt to identify the areas with the FTTP delivery but it is not easy as the products sold are identical, but from the 116,000 premises we have recorded as RFOG the median download speed in Q2 was 60.5 Mbps, which suggests new customers may be buying the faster services and/or the new areas have less congestion in the local network.
The bulk of the local access to the Virgin Media network may be metallic in nature still, but the existing DOCSIS 3.0 network can go faster than the 350 Mbps maximum speed sold today, we suspect that once the millions of Gigabit full fibre premises become a reality that DOCSIS 3.1 will be switched on and marketed with top speeds competing with the full fibre services, at which point it becomes a game of which operator runs their network end to end the best i.e. no point in having a Gigabit connection for gaming that downloads large patches in seconds if during gameplay the latency is all over the place.