UPDATE – Project Lightning and forecast take-up outcomes at the start of 2018

The future takes shape

Updated availability and take-up forecasts to 2025

As in previous updates we’ve been tracking Virgin Media activity, amongst others, over the last year in an attempt to understand their footprint, strategy and outcomes.  This analysis is with particular reference to Project Lightning and the advent ultrafast broadband in the UK.

What’s been happening and where?

As Virgin Media progressed through 2017 it started to recover some ground after a rocky start for Project Lightning.  Towards the end of the year they have accelerated somewhat although we expect are still going to be around short of their target for new premises passed for Project Lightning (PL) in 2017.

They’ve mostly kept it metro, areas with population of 1000 pp/sqkm and above, but not exclusively with a sprinkling of acquisition related work and with a few interesting excursions.  You can see the impact of their work to integrate new acquisitions and develop their footprint in our postcode level outputs.  For example here’s the bulk of their Scottish footprint in pink and their activities tracked through 2017 in blue.  The green hatched regions are the metro areas.

Scotland and Virgin Media in 2017

Their adds are consistent with achieving 4 million new premises passed by the end of 2020 based on a polynomial trend.  Other outcomes are possible and it will be challenging to continue to accelerate their footprint growth.  They’ll need to average around a million a year new premises passed, double what they’ve achieved in 2017, to meet their goal by the end of 2020.

PL adds and trends

PL adds and trends

We are assuming 150,000 new premises passed in Q4 2017.

UK forecasts – availability and take-up to 2025

Advent of ultrafast and the top of the market

After the clarification from Openreach (updated case study here) of their deployments plans, 3 million premises passed by FTTP by 2020 and up to 10 million by 2025 with 13 million passed with at least 100Mbps downstream (what BT are terming ‘ultrafast’) we are able to solidify the outputs from our earlier scenario modelling.

Assumptions, expectations and outcomes


Our approach means that the projected overbuild can be output straightforwardly.  For example the FTTP intersections for various times and suppliers for the UK is below

These are the limits of supply over time for the take-up modelling.


Our take-up modelling is based on a combination of Gompertz for the gross numbers and regression models for the ISP market shares.

We’ve assigned values to the growth and substitution rates of the various technologies.  At this stage they are constant over time and do not account for inter-ISP variations beyond a starting and expected market share.  So the introduction of significantly price differentiated tariffs or deltas in churn or local marketing effects aren’t accounted for.

We generate a set of market shares per ISP per year per technology at each projected intersection of their respective footprints.  So where expected Sky FTTP intersects with BT, Virgin Media and Vodafone but not TalkTalk (not a very large set) for example.  There are currently 1044 intersections of the supplier, technology and location matrix used for these forecasts.

This results in a set of take-up forecasts as follows:

The national breakdown is available for Point Topic subscribers.

As FTTP spreads through the BDUK areas in particular as a result of the clawback from the rapid FTTC uptake we will see particular impact on ADSL subscriptions.  As bandwidth demand increases throughout the consumer universe at the end of this decade and into the next we’ll see eventually FTTC start to fall in total as well.

Another milestone is in 2023 when the first 5G commercial services launch in the UK and the knock on effect for 4G tariffs in combination with the changing behaviours across the demographics, more mobile use and screen time, start to crystalise.  There has always been a small and slowly growing proportion of households that are mobile only and we expect this to accelerate.

In addition gigabit FWA services and increased bandwidth are available from now on.  Again there will be a substitution effect on the fixed line market.  Overall we are projecting the fixed line peak in the UK as it approaches 95% household penetration and the number of lines will start to fall overall from the middle of the next decade.

Get access to full report and statistics

Papers are available to UK Plus subscribers – UK Plus service. Full details and postcode level analysis of footprints and take-up as well as forecasts are also available to Broadband geography subscibers. To find out more, please telephone +44 (0)20 3301 3303 or e-mail [email protected]