Virgin Media CEO Disses DSL
"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