Following Virgin Media’s admission in March 2017 that it had overstated the progress made as part of its GBP3 billion (USD3.9 billion) ‘Project Lightning’ rollout, the network expansion plan is still said to be running some way behind schedule.
British broadsheet The Daily Telegraph, citing documents it had seen regarding the project, has claimed that in June 2017 the cableco fell 61% short of its goal for connecting new premises. In the month in question work was said to have been completed on 27,199 premises, far lower than the 69,278 target; notably in blocks of flats Virgin Media added just 15% of the 16,467 new connections it had been scheduled to complete. Meanwhile, work to ‘in-fill’ areas close to existing cables, which accounted for biggest share of the overall goal, reached only 43% of its target.
Commenting on the matter, an unnamed Virgin Media spokesman was cited as saying: ‘We are currently in reboot mode for Project Lightning as we increase the scale of delivery of the biggest broadband infrastructure build programme in more than a decade … In the meantime, sales, average revenue per user, and build costs are all broadly tracking in line with our expectations.’
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph also reports that, while efforts to get Project Lightning back on track continue, executives from Virgin Media’s parent company Liberty Global have opted to cut jobs and close retail outlets. Around 30 high street stores – including Virgin Media’s Oxford Street flagship location – will be closed by October 2017, while some 200 staff have been informed that they are at risk of being made redundant.
Finally, with uptake for its services also said to be behind expectations – in June 2017 Virgin Media was said to have signed up only attracted 57% of the 20,445 customers it had hoped to – the cableco is said to be preparing to re-add a 50Mbps plan to its product range. The move comes after Virgin Media in March 2017 claimed to have become the first ‘widely-available’ UK broadband provider to offer downlink speeds of 100Mbps as standard, following a revamping of its tariff plans. At that date it confirmed its entry-level broadband-only plan – ‘VIVID 100 Solus’ – would offer 100Mbps/12Mbps down/up speeds for GBP32.25 per month, including line rental. Now, however, the operator is said to be looking to introduce a cheaper, slower package with a view to attracting and retaining budget-conscious subscribers.