Virgin Media boss: "Far too many people in Ireland have extremely slow connectivity"

Tony Hanway on rebranding, broadband and the future of the business

Virgin Media boss: "Far too many people in Ireland have extremely slow connectivity"

The Virgin Media launch in the RDS in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Virgin Media rolled into Ireland back in October 2015. Richard Branson's company took over UPC's portfolio and have worked to expand it ever since. 

"Consumers and businesses are already seeing a lot more Virgin in Ireland" explains Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland. 

The company has been expanding its network to towns like Eniscorthy, Portarlington and Drogheda in recent weeks. 

"We're bringing fibre to the door," says Hanway. "It's ironic, that those who waited the longest for broadband are now getting the best broadband in Ireland." 

Whilst on the topic of fibre to the door, how does Hanway view the delays to the National Broadband Plan?

"The delays probably, in some way, suit us. We didn't take part in the tender process because we thought we can organically expand our network substantially. We cover about half of the homes in Ireland. Our plan is to take that to about 70% over the next three years. That's taking up our time and energy."

"From an Ireland Inc. point of view, it is sad that it is taking so long. It's still going to take multiple years from now. Gradual progress is being made, but there's still far too many people with extremely slow connectivity. There's no doubt that the NBP has been very complicated, it's wrapped up in a lot of legal commitments and I think it justifies our reasons for not wanting to get involved. We have been able to make greater progress ourselves on a quicker timeline."

Progress

Almost two years into the rebrand, Tony Hanway, CEO of Virgin Media Ireland told Newstalk.com that he is very happy with the company's progress. 

"We're really delighted with the progress the brand is making in Ireland. We track our brand performance. It's only 15 months old in Ireland and already we see - on a wide variety of factors, it's the strongest performing brand in the sector. That's in terms of fun, innovation, aspiration, customer support and top-quality products."

Virgin Media now offers home broadband, TV, and mobile packages, going up against the long-established heavyweights such as Vodafone and eir. 

"It's always a danger when you go to a new brand, but when we saw the Virgin Brand, we knew it was a winner. We are very happy that we have already achieved a very strong foothold in Ireland already. This is only the start. We're phenomenally optimistic about what we can do with the company. We are happy with the progress, but we're never satisfied," continued Hanway. 

The introduction of Virgin Media Mobile expanded the options on offer to customers. The SIM-only offering costs €25 a month, giving customers unlimited 4G, calls, and texts. Hanway said the mobile market needed shaking up. 

"We always felt the mobile market in Ireland was very stale. We think we brought something different. We believe that when people see our coverage and our tariffs, they'll stay. We're easily Ireland's fastest growing mobile business." 

Services

Aside from the extensive TV and billboard campaigns, Virgin Media has also taken over the Night Run from Samsung. Thousands of participants donned a red jersey earlier this year to complete the 10K. They also run competitions for aspiring entrepreneurs and support Codor Dojo at a community level. 

Hanway says the Irish public are encountering the brand throughout their day to day lives. 

"We bought BitBuzz a number of years ago and we're aggressively growing our Wifi footprint around Ireland. What we're seeing now is, customers get up in the morning and then use their Virgin Media mobile, then use data services in the home using our superfast home broadband. If they're in public spaces they're using our public Wifi services. We're happy that customers are interfacing with our various services."

There is no sign of the company slowing down anytime soon.