Gigabit broadband is set to be the next revolution in high-speed internet access, making even the fastest of today’s most widely available broadband packages seem snail-paced by comparison.
Virgin Media seems confident in its ability to be the first to provide 1Gbps speeds to the majority of its customers, which comes in addition to its roll-out of full fibre broadband undertaken through its ‘Project Lightning’ programme.
Top-end broadband speeds are already working their way into homes, and Virgin Media has vowed to make 1Gbps speeds available to every single one of their customers within the next two years.
More than one million people will be able to get access to this new technology before the end of the year, with Southampton being one of the first cities to get this upgrade as it has hosted trials of the technology during development. Virgin Media is also trialling the technology in Cambridge, where it is already able to offer download speeds of over 8Gbps to parts of its residential network.
More cities will be added over the coming months and years, with the entirety of Virgin Media’s cable network served by 2021. This means that 15 million homes — representing roughly half of all UK households — will be able to double the very fastest broadband speeds currently being advertised.
Lutz Schüler, Virgin Media CEO, said, “This is a giant digital leap forward for the UK. Virgin Media has been the unparalleled speed leader for many years. Very soon, for the first time ever, millions of people right across the country will be able to experience hyperfast and reliable gigabit internet connections thanks to the latest technology and the power of our network.
“This upgrade plan will see gigabit speeds rolled out at an unrivalled pace right across the country, bringing our customers the future-proof connections of tomorrow.”
It’s hard to imagine how gigabit broadband would impact our everyday lives, with Virgin Media stating that it represents speeds 20 times faster than the average speed currently provided to UK homes.
According to the company, the new speeds will completely outshine its current speeds, giving the following examples for comparison:
|Download||1Gbps||Average UK connection speeds|
|1080p High Definition film (5GB)||42 seconds||13 minutes|
|Ultra High Definition 4K film (20GB)||less than 3 minutes||52 minutes|
|PlayStation 4 game, for example, FIFA 18 (45GB)||Six and a half minutes||Nearly 2 hours|
This speed boost could pave the way for next-generation technologies that we haven’t even conceived of yet, like 8K-resolution video streams, “holographic-vision” sports broadcasts and virtual-reality shopping.
The greatest advantage that Virgin Media has over many of its competitors is its existing cable network. This cable network already has much of the technology in place in order to provide incredibly fast speeds, meaning many of Virgin’s customers won’t need to have expensive and inconvenient physical line upgrades before receiving the new service.
However, some observers are sceptical. Paolo Pescatore, of the consultancy PP Foresight, said: "One of the challenges Virgin Media has had is the fact that at peak times the network hasn't really fulfilled and satisfied users' requirements.
"It's great to focus on speed. But I think that capacity is arguably the biggest benefit of this move to gigabit connectivity."
Virgin Media has yet to confirm pricing or availability of 1Gbps broadband, claiming that it will be announced in the “coming months.” However, the provider’s M350 subscription, which provides average download speeds of 362Mbps, is currently priced at £46 per month for 12 months, then £62 a month ongoing.
At that price, gigabit broadband won’t be for everyone. However, if your household is heaving on streaming, downloading, and online gaming, the new speeds could be a game-changer.