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Virgin Media to push out nimble new broadband speeds

Telco to burn £110m on shoving 120Mbps through fibre

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Virgin Media is planning to whip its broadband into a wild gallop in a £110m upgrade that will produce a top speed of 120Mbps.

The company won't be charging its existing customers for the new speeds, and folks who have an old modem incapable of handling the super-fast internet – such as those on the 20Mbps package – will get a new one free.

The smokin' hot broadband speeds were enough to prompt praise from UK prime minister David Cameron, who reckons the upgrade will boost the economy. One of the government's ambitions is to have sizzling internet available for 90 per cent of homes in the UK by 2015.

The upgrade, which will start in February and take 18 months to complete, will turn Virgin's 10Mbps package to 20Mbps; 20Mbps and 30Mbps packages to 60Mbps; 50Mbps package to 100Mbps; and its 100Mbps package to 120Mbps. Technically speaking, the new services aren't going to require any major work on the network, just a wee bit of engineering at the hubs to get its DOCSIS 3.0 network to bond more channels together.

Virgin still has plenty of space on its network, so loads of surfers using up to 120Mbps shouldn't be a problem. The company has previously tested speeds of 200Mbps and 1.5Gbps on the same fibre.

The provider spends millions every year to maintain and expand its network – the legacy wiring from NTL and Telewest. The only other service provider in the country with any super-fast ambitions in action is BT, which is in the process of rolling out a fibre network across the country. This means smaller ISPs such as Talk Talk, BSkyB and O2 will have to consider investing in their own networks or risk being left behind. ®

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