Opensignal talks up VMO2's chances of competing with Openreach

As Virgin Media O2 (VMO2)'s parents prepare to take on Openreach in the wholesale market, Opensignal suggests it could give the incumbent a good run for its money.

Nick Wood

May 16, 2024

3 Min Read

In a new report, Opensignal compared the fixed broadband experience of VMO2 users with those of major ISPs that currently rely on Openreach.

It found that within VMO2's admittedly much smaller network footprint, the average VMO2 customer enjoys a superior fixed broadband experience to customers of Vodafone, Sky and TalkTalk, who get online via Openreach's network.

By 'superior' Opensignal means noticeably faster upload and download speeds, slightly better consistency, and a marginally better video experience.

Delving deeper, Opensignal compared the experience of customers that subscribe to the two slowest broadband speed tiers on offer from VMO2, Vodafone, Sky and TalkTalk, and found similar results. Vodafone has the edge in terms of consistent quality, which measures not just throughput but also latency, jitter, packet loss and time to first byte. According to Opensignal, these are the metrics that indicate an Internet connection's ability to meet the requirements of common applications, like HD video, gaming, video conferencing and so-on.

"We have seen that within VMO2's footprint, our users on its network on average have a more consistent and faster experience than those with ISPs that are Openreach tenants, while also having a better experience when streaming on-demand video over Wi-Fi connections.

Vodafone just edges VMO2, which Opensignal attributes to Voda's core network policies and customer premises equipment (CPE).

"We have seen that within VMO2's footprint, our users on its network on average have a more consistent and faster experience than those with ISPs that are Openreach tenants, while also having a better experience when streaming on-demand video over Wi-Fi connections," said Opensignal.

However, Opensignal was also at pains to point out that this report touches on a lot of unknowns. First and foremost, there's no telling how the VMO2 wholesale offering will take shape in the coming years, and how Openreach's might evolve during that same period of time.

VMO2's parents, Telefónica and Liberty Global, announced plans to create NetCo in February. The venture will bring together VMO2's fibre and cable networks into a single wholesale network platform that covers 16.2 million UK premises.

It will operate separately to Nexfibre – the wholesale JV between Telefónica, Liberty Global and private equity firm Infravia – which is in the midst of rolling out fibre in areas that fall outside VMO2's footprint. Once the Nexfibre deployment is completed, together with NetCo these networks will pass 23 million homes and businesses.

That puts it on a similar level to Openreach, which has already passed 12.5 million premises with fibre, and aims to double that by 2026.

There is more to the wholesale market than network footprint though. Other factors that impact the customer experience include the products on offer – like speed tiers and so-on – the equipment being used in exchanges, the quality or otherwise of customer support, and the size and competence of the field engineers. That's before you get to price.

Opensignal also points out that the process ISPs go through to switch wholesale provider can be complex and time-consuming.

"This combined with the fact that NetCo is not expected to go live until H1 2025, and the fast pace of fibre rollout in the UK, may mean that the user experience landscape will be significantly different by the time the first ISPs migrate over to NetCo," Opensignal said.

Nonetheless, the report gives a tantalising glimpse of what Openreach could be in for when VMO2's wholesale venture is off and running.

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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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