According to documents seen by the Telegraph, Virgin Media’s network expansion project is running way behind schedule.
Dubbed Project Lightning, the initiative may have to be renamed if it doesn’t get a shift on. The Telegraph leak claims that, in June, it completed work on less than half of the new lines it planned, including infill of areas close to existing cables, and only 15% of the intended new connections in blocks of flats.
These kinds of numbers are unlikely to be well received by parent company Liberty Media, especially since it likes to emphasise Lightning as a major course of customer additions and thus revenue growth in its earnings announcements. In its most recent quarterlies Liberty Media announced a ‘refocused approach to Project Lightning’, with the appointment of a new management team led by Rob Evans.
Asked for comment, a Virgin Media spokesperson had the following update: “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, ARPU, and build costs are all broadly tracking in line with our expectations.”
The Telegraph seems to have an enduring interest in the fortunes of Virgin Media. It also reports that earlier this year the company was forced to admit it had significantly overstated the number of new connections, which is what led to the appointment of Evans and co. Furthermore the paper reports the shake-up is likely to be felt further down the food-chain, with 200 redundancies imminent.
It isn’t obvious why Virgin Media’s fibre roll-out is proceeding more slowly than hoped. The most likely reason is simply over-aggressive target setting by under-pressure execs, which in turn makes a degree of creative accounting more likely within the reporting structure. Liberty Global seems to be relying heavily on Lightning to boost its bottom line but laying new fibre is a laborious and expensive business.