Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

UK elite enjoy next-gen broadband

Kashvi Shah uses pay-as-you-surf 100Mbps broadband at her home run by Quintain Estates in west London

As Lord Carter delivers his verdict on the current state of broadband in Britain, some lucky people are already enjoying the benefits of next-generation access, with speeds of up to 100Mbps (megabits per second).

According to a report from the Communications Consumer Panel, which advises regulator Ofcom on broadband, there are 40 projects around the UK looking to bring super-fast net access to homes.

Most are still under development but a couple have real customers, including a project in the shadow of Wembley Stadium.

Quintain Estates is in the process of building 12,000 apartments in a development known as Wembley City. The first 286 dwellings were completed in October 2008.

Fast boosts

Alongside Wembley City's state of the art recycling system is fibre-to-the-home technology which feeds a whopping 100Mbps into every flat.

A third of the apartments are occupied and among the private tenants there is almost 100% take-up of the fibre service, dubbed Velocity 1.

The other apartments are owned by local housing associations and even among the more cash-strapped tenants there has been a 70% take-up.

The company is not offering 100Mb as a standard package though.

How the Wembley City development will look
Wembley City will eventually have 12,000 new homes

James Saunders, managing director of commercial ventures at Quintain explained why.

"It would drastically raise operating costs and most people don't need it so we don't think that always-on 100Mbps is the answer at the moment," he said.

Instead people are offered a variety of broadband bundles of 8Mbps (15.99 a month), 16Mbps (25.99) and 32Mbps (35.99).

All come with the option to boost the speed up to 100Mbps for a period of half an hour at a cost of 1, with each package offering some free boosts. The boosts are activated by a click on the Velocity 1 website.

The packages also come bundled with TV services, some free landline phonecalls and free IT support, including a 9-5 onsite engineer.

Urban economics

There is also access to a community TV channel which offers local information including promotions and last-minute deals at the nearby Wembley Arena and Wembley Stadium.

There are no plans to extend the fibre to the homes surrounding Wembley City.

"We would have to dig up roads and rewire their buildings and it starts losing economic sense," said Mr Saunders.

There are other new build projects under development, with sites in the pipeline in Greenwich and Bristol.

Mr Saunders said that, for the time being, the fibre scheme is likely to be confined to urban areas.

100Mb boost button
Residents of Wembley City can pay 1 to upgrade their broadband connection to 100Mb for 30 minutes

"With our new builds we need a minimum number of 1,000 houses. If we are going to have to dig 10 miles over fields then another technology is going to be better," he said.

Speed kings

Kashvi Shah is a fashion student and, along with two of her fellow London School of Fashion colleagues, rents a flat at Wembley City and has signed up for the 32Mbps broadband service.

She has noticed a huge difference when performing ordinary tasks such as uploading and downloading files.

"Pictures from the photoshoots I do can be uploaded in seconds," she said.

In common with other students in the block, she does not take the bundled TV service, preferring instead to watch TV on the net.

"I watch a lot of Indian news channels. With the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai it was the only way to stay in touch," she said.

Downloading a movie from iTunes takes her seconds, even without using the 100Mbps boost.

The most important aspect of the service is the fact that it is future-proofed, thinks Mr Saunders.

"Looking to the future, peoples' habits are changing and this service takes account of the fact that they are downloading and streaming far more as well as for the applications that are just around the corner," he said.

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