Virgin Media to create two Gigabit cities
Virgin Media has been busy expanding its footprint via the Project Lightning which is a mixture of infill in existing coax areas and for new virgin areas full fibre utilising RFOG is deployed and the year on year expansion has been delivering around 400,000 to 500,000 premises a year to give a total footprint of 1.6 million premises.
The latest financial results from Liberty Global contain the usual ARPU changes, but for many people news of the two Gigabit cities on the way to the UK and a new top speed 500 Mbps service across the UK (expected April/May 2019) will be the most exciting aspect. In terms of customer numbers the total broadband user base is 5,224,600 a net growth of 21,700 in the last quarter.
The second key takeaway is the hard work we've done to lay the foundation for continued growth in 2019 and beyond. That includes the launch of two gigabit cities in the UK, we are going to raise our top speed, our broadband speeds to 500 megabits per second, that's nearly eight times faster than anybody else in the market. We have improved WiFi apps, and more boosters. We will launch a new Horizon 4 UI, which will be materially better than what we've got there today featuring voice search and better graphics. This is what we rolled out in Switzerland recently, NPS went up 36 points and we're going to make it easier for customers to buy, change and pay for services through our online platform and by my Virgin app.Michael Fries -- Chief Executive Officer
A copy of the transcript if you want to read the rest is over at Motley Fool. No news on which two cities will get the Gigabit treatment, but our presumption is that this will mark the switch on and use of DOCSIS 3.1 in the network, with the slower 500 Mbps top speed in the rest of the country probably pushing the existing DOCSIS 3.0 closer to its limits. DOCSIS 3.1 is being rolled out in other Liberty Global countries and the UK has also generally lagged in terms of top speeds offered by DOCSIS 3.0 areas.
On the 500 Mbps being 'nearly eight times faster than anybody else in the market' clearly the qualifiers to say that this is referring to VDSL2 based services has been missed, since there is an increasing amount of Gigabit options from full fibre and the footprint for G.fast which is growing all the time would need to be recognised.
A very small number of people are already on a 500 Mbps service trial (with upload speeds of around 35 Mbps) and the usual over provisioning by 15% is expected so that if everything is performing well customers can see download and upload speeds above the advertised speed. We have looked through our speed tests and no obvious tests beyond some business connections in the 500 to 1000 Mbps region.
One snippet we spotted in the investor presentation was the statement 'Declining capital intensity as significant project spend rolls off in UK and Belgium' seems to hint that maybe in the future we should not expect as much Project Lightning expansion each year. The cost per premises passed is also revealed as £690 and there is a very useful chart showing over time how penetration slowly builds up, which is something we would expect to see for other ultrafast roll-outs across the UK.
The overall take-up for Project Lightning is running at 22%, but for the earlier areas this does improve, but does mean waiting 3 to 4 years to see in the region of 35%.