Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Virgin unveils next-gen broadband

Virgin Media's boss talks to the BBC

Virgin Media has launched its new 50 Megabits per second (Mbps) domestic broadband service.

In doing so it will be the first UK ISP to roll out a next generation broadband service that runs far faster than most others available to UK web users.

The new 50 Mbps service will cost 51 a month, although this is reduced to 35 if users also take a Virgin Phone line for an additional 11 a month.

The service will put Virgin at the top of the speed league for UK ISPs.

Close behind is Be Broadband which offers a 24Mbps service for 17.50 per month.

The details of the service were released during a news conference on Monday. Trials of the high-speed service were carried out in Kent during 2008.

The service will be rolled out country-wide over the next six months.

The news comes as the cable group announces that it will cut 2,200 jobs by 2012.

Rival competition

BT has announced that Muswell Hill, in London, and Whitchurch, in Cardiff, will be the first pilot sites for its fibre-based broadband trial, which will begin in the summer of 2009.

Up to 15,000 homes and businesses will get the chance to take part in a trial of fibre to the cabinet technology which can deliver speeds of up to 40Mbps.

It has said it will invest 1.5bn in laying fibre as far as its street cabinets. The connection from the street cabinet to people's homes will rely on copper lines.

Grapic of a house

Charlie Ponsonby at comparison site Simplify Digital said higher speeds would drive changes in the way people use the web.

"As we see an increasing blur between the TV set and the PC, with on-demand content flowing seamlessly between the two, people's appetite for broadband speed will head rapidly upwards," he said.

"Today's average of about 2 Mbps will soon seem as inadequate as a 56 Kbps dial-up connection already seems to the great majority of web users," he added.

Not everyone is convinced that the cable modem technology on offer from Virgin Media will be enough to satisfy speed-hungry consumers.

The president of the Fibre to the Home Council of Europe, Joeri Van Bogaert, said: "Cable modem can be complementary to fibre to the home (FTTH) but is in no way a substitute," he said.

"The main issue is speed. While FTTH can easily deliver speeds of up to 100Mbps and could eventually pump out 1000Mbps, Virgin's service offers 50Mbps and is asymmetric.

"This means that uploading content will be much slower than download speeds."

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