Friday, August 3, 2012


The world of finance is full of all kinds of jargon measures such as ARPU (Average Revenue Per User – or, sometimes, Unit) and ACPU (Average Contribution Per Unit).

This week we have a new one which I fully expect to see in balance sheets up and down the land.

That's AFPU.

Or Average Fish Per User.

Am I going stark raving bonkers?  No more so than before.  This is actually work related.

You may have seen the amazing fantastic wonderful brilliant awesome Discover zone on our website (yes, this is his job to promote it – Ed), the broadband section of which you can find at  That's the advert over and done with.

In Discover one of the things we advise customers on in terms of optimising their wireless is the impact of large masses on wireless signals, which includes large pieces of furniture and brick walls.  And fish tanks.

Fish tanks have lots of water in them and water absorbs wireless signals, so we needed to find out how much of an issue this is in terms of affecting the reliability of the wireless signal for our customers.

As ever when it comes to these things, I commissioned some research from this really helpful chap called Tom in our Customer Insight team:

This is Tom after I asked him to commission some general research into customers and what they’re doing when they experience speed and reliability issues.  That’s how exciting one of my briefing sessions is.

So we went out and identified those having problems, talked to them about concurrent usage, electrical items that interfere with their connections, where they go for help … and how many of them have fish tanks.

This generated a cracking stat.  From the customers who had wireless issues in our survey group, 12% of them had a fish tank in the same room they were in when they had the problem.

While the research has generated a plethora of other initiatives (like adding info to Discover, updating top tips, looking more at expectation management etc), it also left me wondering as to how many fish tanks are out there in our customer base in order to help me size the issue.

I can't believe the sources of info that the Customer Insight guys can come up with, but even I was impressed when Tom told me:

Households with pet fish in the UK
  • 3.394m in total
  • 50% (rounded - 1.692m) have goldfish/cold water fish kept indoors
  • 27% (0.899m) have goldfish/cold water fish kept outdoors
  • 30% (1.013m) have tropical/marine fish

This set off the 'pointless stat' part of my brain, so I had to work out how many fish the average Virgin Media broadband customer has and calculate how many fish are passed by our network (just pet ones that is, not ones in rivers – that would be weird).

So, assuming all the fish (indoors and outdoors) are classified as pets and the below facts:
  • The average number of fish in a tank is 12 (
  • 80% of households now have Internet access in the UK (Ofcom)
  • We have 20.2 market share (Ofcom)
  • The UK had 26.3 million households in 2011 (ONS)
  • Our network passes nearly 13 million homes and we have 4.1m broadband customers (our financial results)

We now know the following:
  • Our network passes 20,131,711 fish
  • Our broadband customers have 6,581,645 pet fish
  • AFPU 1.5849
So, there you go – the average Virgin Media broadband customer has 1.58 pet fish.  Here they are:

I'd have expected more, but then there is a recession on.  I’ll ask the finance guys to set some stretch targets on Monday.

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