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Virgin Media To Connect 500,000 More Properties In 2016

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 says Project Lightning expansion is already having an impact as parent company agrees joint-venture deal with Vodafone in the Netherlands

Virgin Media added 250,000 premises to its cable network during 2015 and predicts it will connect another 500,000 in 2016 as part of its ongoing ‘Project Lightning’ expansion.

It is expected that Project Lightning will increase Virgin’s footprint from 12.9 million homes and businessestoday to 17 million by 2019.

The Liberty Global-owned firm said its infill and new development areas were ahead of expectations and suggested reaching new areas of the UK, along with faster speeds for homes and businesses, was helping boost subscriber numbers.

Project Lightning expansion

packetfrontIt added 99,000 new customers in 2015, 55,000 of which signed up during the fourth quarter. The company secured 158,000 new Internet subscriptions over the course of the year and 94,000 landline users.

In total, Virgin has 5.1 million customers in the UK – 65 percent of which take three services and 17 percent are quad-play users. The number of Virgin Media mobile subscribers now totals 3 million. Fourth quarter revenues rose by five percent to £1.2 billion and fiscal year revenues increased four percent to £4.6bn.

“These results demonstrate a strong financial performance from Virgin Media. We’ve grown revenue and operating cash flow and improved cost control, since becoming part of Liberty Global,” said Tom Mockridge, Virgin Media CEO. “More people than ever are choosing to switch to the UK’s fastest broadband speeds from Virgin Media, whether they are at home, at work or on the go.”

In the Netherlands, Liberty Global intends to launch a 50-50 joint-venture with Vodafone that will see the former’s Ziggo broadband network with the latter’s mobile infrastructure. It is hoped the combination will help the new company compete with KPN in the country.

Dutch joint-venture

“This powerful combination of the best fixed and mobile networks in the Netherlands will deliver huge benefits to Dutch consumers and businesses,” commented Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “We look forward to working together to develop cutting‐edge converged services for the Dutch market.”

“Together we will be a stronger competitor in the Netherlands, benefiting customers of both companies and the market as a whole,” said Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group CEO. “This transaction marks a continuation of Vodafone’s market‐by‐market convergence strategy and we look forward to partnering with Liberty Global to create a fully integrated provider in one of our core European markets.”

Although limited to the Netherlands, the deal will inevitably increase speculation regarding further cooperation. Last year, the two firms discussed a potential “exchange of assets”, which could have involved Vodafone’s UK network or Virgin Media.

Vodafone has only recently dipped its toes into the fixed broadband and television markets in the UK, while Virgin Media does not have a mobile network, instead relying on a long-standing MVNO agreement with EE.

Both parties might feel a merger would be beneficial given the trend towards convergence in the British communications sector and the increasing popularity of quad-play.

However these previous discussions came to an end late last year with no agreement.

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