Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

UK MSO Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) intends to take dead aim at the DSL competition by doubling up the downstream capabilities of its Docsis 3.0 service in 2010.

"We will be launching 100-meg by the end of the year," Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett said on Wednesday's second-quarter earnings call. (See Virgin Media Reports Q2 and Virgin Preps 100-Mbit/s Broadband Launch.)

Virgin, which has been fueling its D3 rollout with Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)'s cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), hasn’t identified a launch date or any initial launch markets, but the speed bump will follow the MSO's broad deployment of a 50-Mbit/s (downstream) service. It's also been testing 200-Mbit/s speeds using D3, but hasn't set any formal service launch plans for such a residential tier. (See Virgin Bonds With 200 Mbit/s Trial .)

Berkett, however, clearly views D3 as a weapon it can use to carve up competitive DSL offers from BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Carphone Warehouse Group plc (London: CPW), and other rivals. A new report from UK regulator Ofcom found that cable Internet speeds were superior to DSL's, so it was perhaps no surprise that Virgin's CEO pounced on the opportunity to drive that message to investors. (See ISPs Shamed by UK Broadband Speed Tests and 'Up To' No Good.)

"We provide a true, up-to-10-meg-, up-to-20-meg-, up-to-50-meg-per-second service," he said, claiming that Virgin customers are getting, on average, 85 percent to 90 percent of those advertised max speeds.

And he's not overly worried about faster DSL technologies.

"I do not fear the world of VDSL. VDSL will fall for the same traps as DSL does today," Berkett said. "By the time VDSL has any critical mass, it will be a 24 Mbit/s product. By the time it [VDSL] has critical mass, our entry level will be 20 Mbit/s, our mid-point will be 50-Mbit/s, and our top range will be 100-Mbit/s."

Virgin's second-quarter results showed that subscribers are starting to migrate to the faster tiers.

CFO Eamonn O'Hare said 17 percent of the MSO's broadband sub base now take a 20-meg or above product, a 43 percent year-on-year increase. Given that Virgin ended the quarter with 3.93 million cable broadband subs, the MSO ended the period with about 668,000 customers who took one of the higher tiers.

And that work will start to link up with Virgin's upcoming move to the TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) platform later this year, with Berkett noting that the MSO is eager to figure out ways to embed TiVo and use it to cross-sell and up-sell its whole service portfolio. (See TiVo Coming to Virgin's Non-DVRs, Too and Virgin Presses 'Play' on TiVo.)

"I firmly believe that TiVo inside will create the framework that will generate the growth in 2011 that you are seeing in 2010," the Virgin chief said. "It will transform the UK viewing market."

Under the plan, Virgin intends to eventually use TiVo as its sole middleware and have it present in DVR and non-DVR boxes. Virgin hasn't revealed its entire hardware strategy for that, but Berkett did acknowledge that it will be matching non-DVR Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) boxes with the TiVo software. He said Virgin's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) DVRs aren't compatible with the TiVo software, so Virgin will be sourcing TiVo-made boxes for the DVR component, at least during the initial phases of the rollout.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:28:30 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

DSL discussion aside, Berkett also referred to BT's fiber ambitions as a "defensive move... If you lift the bonnet of BT... they have done a fantastic job at charging a premium price for an inferior product." Ouch!  



digits 12/5/2012 | 4:28:27 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

Berkett is enjoying it while he can.... currently he has the superior product and a network he doesn't have to wholesale. In time, all that might change.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:28:16 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

There seems to be some confusion on who will be supplying the hardware for Virgin's TiVo rollout.  A Virgin spokesman confirmed that TiVo's software is compatible with the non-DVR Cisco "V HD" box that the MSO launches earlier this year. The question is whether Cisco will also be supplying the DVR box. During the initial phase of the rollout, it appears Virgin will be using a TiVo-made box, though there's some speculation that Cisco will be supplying the DVR piece, too, such as it will be for ONO's TiVo rollout in Spain. But Virgin has yet to confirm that piece of the puzzle.  JB



Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:27:51 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

Hey Popper,

Thanks for the reminder on that. I'll check to see if they've revised the expectations for the advertised burst upload speeds to go with the 100-meg downstream tier, but the last time we asked, they said to expect a minimum of 10 Mbit/s upstream.  But that was several months ago; will have to see if that's still in the expected neighborhood and put in an update. JB

popper 12/5/2012 | 4:27:51 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

the other key point no one seems interested in pointing out is that no matter who the so called Box suppliers are Virgin Media ALWAYS selects the lowest under speced unit they a given supplier can provide,.

in many cases VM even contract for the end of life CPE kit not even a reasonable current offering, so as to get the best price for the quarter's balance sheet with No regard as to to the longer term future or usability, see below.


not once in Virgin Media's or it's NTL incarnation before that history, have they provided in their rental CPE kit any current top of the line Box suppliers CPE kit.


 which  is odd when you consider all Virgin media customers are forced to rent all this cable and STB kit off VM as there's no such thing as a 3d party CPE cable market in the UK, and even if you did own some 3rd party kit you cant connect it to the Virgin media network and just pay VM a subscription fee.


all told the actual STB/CM/Router spec of all these so called Box suppliers kit will be a lowest spec VM think they can get away with to run a minimal TiVo middle-ware, remember they did Exactly the same for their antiquated liberate middle-ware and HW specs.


im still insistent that light reading and  you Really need to ask far more in-depth questions as relates to the actual power of this Virgin media OEM CPE kit end users will be trying to use, it will not be anywhere near powerful enough for even a pleasant experience given past experience of their end user hardware.

popper 12/5/2012 | 4:27:51 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

HI jeff


the key point:

you did it again...., you let Virgin Media PR once again get in their 'PR Innovation' of telling people about the Download rates Without once mentioning the matching Upload rates or weather they are finally a good or reasonable ratio.


please pop back on the phone and clarify with high ranking VM PR etc,the actual UPLOAD Rates they are looking to use... the 36/1 ratio of the 50Mbit/s package is still the worlds worst cable ratio anywhere is it not ?,not to even mentioning the top tier consumer price these people are paying....

popper 12/5/2012 | 4:27:50 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

jeff,  your the man ;) thanks.


regarding VM potentially doing a bonded upload , i don't think that very likely for a long time yet, as light reading et al, don't really push the upload rate in editorial as a critical aspect on users broadband use today so as to educate users to its relevance.... nor generic U/D ratio come to that.


but heres 2 screen shots for you to look at of my VM DS3 modem configured as 53/1.75 even though VM advertise it as 50/1.5 

as you can see they configure for 3 down channels and only configure a single up channel right now in the north west England (ex Cable & wireless section of VM) at least.





Ohh and something you might want to enquire about and write a confirmed VM piece on if you can confirm it for real, the DS3 installer mentioned yet again, that VM were going to increase the 50Mbit/1.76 upload rate to 50/5 by years end ( i asked "you mean 2010" LOL , he said yes) .

that would kind of match up with the proposed/potential 100/10 but then its also a 10/1 Ratio , a massive difference to the actual real Ratio's we get now so perhaps it's all the VM 'PR Innovation' and so need's a real confirmation and see the actual real docsis3 config file their actually going to use before we can beleave it as fact.

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:27:50 PM
re: Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL

Update, there's no firm upstream number they are willing to provide at this point for the 100-meg tier, but they did say to expect some announcements regarding upstream in about a month, so they are either going to firm up a higher number using a single-channel upstream, or perhaps, if you're lucky and this is pure speculation, they'll be among the first to offer a bonded upstream. JB



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