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Fibre-optic broadband

Virgin Media (VM) has launched a pilot scheme offering super fast broadband connections of up to 200Mb, it has been announced.

The scheme is based in Ashford in Kent and will involve between 50 to 100 households in the town. Over the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least until 2010, VM will be testing the service with applications and next-generation services that are expected to boom in years to come and which depend on the mass availability of fast, cheap broadband connections.

According to VM, these will include “state of the art entertainment services using TV and broadband content in full high definition and 3D”. The broadband provider also plans to test the efficacy of the network for connecting a range of internet-ready devices, such as video conferencing and home surveillance, and its ability to deliver applications for home IT needs.

It is anticipated that some of the problems that that may arise will derive from consumers’ routers rather than the network itself. This is because it is likely that many participants will own routers which are not equipped to deliver faster broadband.

VM’s decision to press ahead with the scheme follows successful laboratory trials of the faster service, which reportedly came within 2Mb of achieving the 200Mb target. The broadband supplier intends to allow participants to use the service for six months before commencing analysis of the data.

A spokesperson for VM told the Telegraph: “We have a video of it achieving 198Mb in the lab, obviously that's ideal conditions over the optical network. Now we have to get it out there and see how it performs.

“We're finding that even with 50Mb, to be honest. People aren't going to see the full benefit unless they optimise their computers for the higher speed.”

The 50Mb fibre optic broadband product from Virgin, which was launched towards the end of last year, is currently the fastest commercially available consumer broadband service in the UK. VM has yet to confirm when it plans to bring the 200Mb service to market.

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