BroadbandNetworks

Virgin Media’s £3bn Project Lighting Broadband Expansion Slows Down

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Virgin Media results miss expectations but it expects to see more Project Lightning progress in second half of 2017

Virgin Media added 100,000 new premises to its cable network during the past three months as the pace of its £3 billion ‘Project Lightning’ slowed down during the first quarter of 2017.

The company added 82,000 new broadband subscribers in the UK and Ireland (Virgin Media no longer discloses country-specific numbers) and 65,000 new customers overall.

One third of the latter figure were from premises covered by Project Lightning and two thirds of new additions took three services or more.

Coaxial cable virgin media DOCSIS © zwola fasola Shutterstock

Virgin Media results

Overall Virgin Media now delivers 14.2 million cable services to 5.8 million customers and has 3 million mobile users. The broadband figure currently stands at 5.36 million.

However Mike Fries, CEO of Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Global, admitted its UK and Ireland business had missed expectations and that Project Lightning progress had been stunted temporarily by management changes.

He claimed both financial performance and Project Lightning progress would improve in the second half of 2017.

“With respect to Project Lightning, we previously reported a reboot of the program along with leadership changes,” Fries explained. “This transformation includes the appointment of a new Lightning management team reporting to Liberty’s central T&I group and a detailed review of the program with a view towards ramping our construction activity over the next 12 to 24 months.

“Although we delivered 102,000 new premises at Virgin Media in Q1 and a total of around 700,000 homes to date, we expect that the management transition and related review is likely to result in a slower build pace than what we previously expected for 2017. We will provide an update after our second quarter.”

Project Lightning aims to expand Virgin Media’s cable footprint to 17 million by the end of 2019. Some rural areas have been earmarked for expansion, but most of the deployment will be in places already served BT Openreach.

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