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Virgin Media CEO calls bullsh*t on government broadband promises

Virgin Media BBWF

The growing consensus that Britain’s broadband is down the toilet was compounded by Virgin Media CEO Tom Mockridge at BBWF today, as he told the British government to sort its act out.

Mockridge scathed the government on the vast number of UK bodies confusing matters in the telecoms space. He also cited the “muddled” policy environment, BT Openreach subsidies through BDUK and Brexit confusion as matters needing urgent attention.

But beyond all of those, Mockridge felt compelled to call into question points made by MP Matt Hancock in his keynote yesterday. Hancock stated the government’s ambitions of near total wifi ubiquity on trains up and down the country in the coming half a decade, but the Virgin Media CEO called bullsh*t on his claims.

“Crossrail has been built and is scheduled for launch in 2 years, but it has been built without the provisions for wifi!” he said. “Here we are building a world class transport infrastructure and TfL says it’s too busy to think about wifi. We’re getting rhetoric from the government too, and even Matt Hancock said yesterday the government is targeting almost ubiquitous wifi coverage on trains by 2020, but it’s just not happening.”

Mockridge moved on from scathing the transport sector to claim the mess of bodies meddling in the comms sector is just complicating matters further. He reckoned BT should have been forced to make more concessions in its acquisition of EE, but the Competition and Markets Authority chose not to scrutinise the transaction.

Furthermore, Mockridge said he’s not going to be a douchebag by sticking the boot into BT right now, but he does fancy having a level playing field on which Virgin can compete. He put forward Virgin’s claim to broadband leadership, then said BT’s getting an easy ride.

“We are the broadband leader, the supplier of the fastest speeds – 200 mbps for consumers, 300 for businesses – a constant investor in DOCSIS 3.1 which will be 1Gbps capable. We’re more than happy to compete with BT but don’t need the government knocking BT around, so they need to get their message straight.

“Let the private sector get on with it. We’re not asking for the same subsidies as BT – roughly £1.7 billion has been paid to BT through BDUK – we just want the parity.”

Virgin Media BT AdVirgin has kind of had BT’s back in recent times following their print ad campaign (see right), so the incumbent hasn’t had quite the rough ride it might have expected coming into BBWF this week. The British Government, on the other hand, has had it from three angles.

Firstly from Openreach, then from us, and now today from Virgin. Maybe they’ll get the message sooner or later, but don’t put your house on it.

Oh and he also responded to a question from Telecoms.com to confirm Virgin Mobile will be catching up with the rest of the world and launching 4G services by the end of the year. So you lucky Virgin Mobile customers can look forward to that!


One comment

  1. Nick Ioannou 20/10/2016 @ 1:14 pm

    The government needs to redirect the money for HS2 and lay fibre through the country and especially central London. It is crazy that the Holborn BT exchange is still not yet fibre enabled and we are still limited to up to 17MB ADSL or pay for stupidly high lease lines. This is holding back UK businesses from being competitive.

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