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Virgin Media switches to Gmail

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Virgin Media will today begin moves to transfer its almost four million broadband subscribers to Google's email service.

The three existing in-house email platforms will be gradually decommissioned.

At first only new customers will be invited to join the new outsourced service. Once 20,000 are signed up and the system is working normally, Virgin Media will begin inviting existing customers to switch.

Customers will get the same 7GB inbox as Google offers free via Gmail, and the same features including POP3 and IMAP access, but via an @virginmedia.com address. Subscribers will be able to keep their @blueyonder.co.uk, @ntlworld.com or @virgin.net addresses if they want.

Virgin Media's in-house email platforms, inherited from the days when NTL, Telewest and Virgin.net were separate companies, have proved unreliable, with outages lasting up to several days.

Despite recent downtime lasting a few hours, Google's email service has been seen as relatively solid since its launch in 2004.

Virgin Media's announcement today follows the launch earlier this week of free web-based storage for its subscribers. Both announcements are part of its customer retention strategy. ®

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