Virgin Media begins 100Mb upgrades
Getting faster very slowly
Virgin Media today said it will begin increasing the maximum downstream broadband speed available via its network to 100Mbit/s, and maximum upload speed to 10Mbit/s.
The gradual programme will take more than 18 months to cover the country, it said, and is due for completion in mid-2012. The first areas scheduled for upgrade, in December, are in London, the South-East and Yorkshire.
It follows small-scale trials, which Virgin Media said "found internet usage increased exponentially", compared to the current 50Mbit/s top package.
"We have already seen a massive uptake in the number of customers watching video rich services and bandwidth hungry high definition programmes and clips," said CEO Neil Berkett.
The 100Mbit/s service will come with a new Virgin Media-branded combined cable modem and 802.11n router. It will launch at £45 per month as a standalone package, or £35 with an £11.99 per month phone line. The current top package costs £38 per month on its own.
The slow pace of the work - it'll take longer than the upgrade to 50Mbit/s, which required more radical changes to the network - suggests demand for increased speeds may not be quite as strong as claimed, however.
Nevertheless, Virgin Media is keen to press its technological advantage over BT. The national telco is currently upgrading two-thirds of its network to offer its faster "Infinity" broadband, but two thirds of those new lines will offer theoretical maximum downloads at 40Mbit/s. The typical reality is likely to be closer to just 25Mbit/s.
Virgin Media was able to call on the services of PR-man-turned-PM David Cameron today to help fluff its news.
"We want to see superfast broadband brought to peoples' homes and businesses right across the country and this exciting news takes us a step closer towards reaching that goal," he said.
The firm is taking pre-registrations for 100Mbit/s service from today on its website.
The announcement came alongside strong third quarter financial results for Virgin Media. Compared to the same period last year, revenues were up 6.4 per cent to £978m, and operating profit up 11 per cent to £387.3m. It gained 14,100 net new cable subscribers, below expectations, but more than 62 per cent of customers are now on triple-play packages of broadband, phone and TV, which helped increase ARPU.
The full report is here. ®
cable internet is a tad bit different to ADSL. If you can buy 100mb then you will get 100mb (pretty much) the same as the current 50mb. There is still contention but not the same disadvantages as ASDL distance to exchange.
But it would be better if they'd actually lay some cables to places that don't have the option of cable at all. :(
I'm stuck with a useless BT line that's so far from the exchange I am lucky to get 3Mb (when it should be 8). I know it could be worse but you'd think if a new TOWN is being created BT might put in a dedicated exchange or Virgin might jump in with a cable.
Need for speed
Whilst I don't need a 50Mb downlink all the time, it's damn nice to have it there ready and waiting to be used for the times when I do need it.
Reinstalling Windows (which, in a house with 5 PCs, happens on average every couple of months) is made less painful by being able to blaze through all the post-install downloaded updates. Being able to browse through online document archives with no discernable delays means I can spend more time reading about the subject in question and less time being distracted by a blank screen waiting for the file to show up. Being able to have multiple PCs online at the same time without them having to fight for bandwidth is nice (and leads to far fewer complaints from SWMBO if she wants to browse the net whilst I'm in the middle of dragging the latest Linux ISO - or other similarly sized file, nudge nudge wink wink - off a server somewhere).
Most of the TV we watch and radio we listen to (other than in the car) now arrives via the cable modem rather than the Sky box or various radios dotted around the house - with that much bandwidth on tap you simply don't need to think twice about opening up a live stream if you want to watch/listen to something there and then, or in downloading a bunch of stuff to watch/listen to at a more convenient time.
When you've got a faster connection, your net usage patterns will, sooner or later, change to take advantage of the performance on tap. Things that you used to do knowing it'd take a while you now do without a second thought, things you never bothered to try because you knew it'd take too long you now start trying out, things you never used to be able to do because no-one outside of research labs had connections fast enough to support them become things that we all have access to as an everyday part of our online lives.