Virgin Media 50Mbps broadband: it's official

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Virgin Media has finally announced the official rollout of its super-fast 50Mbps broadband service to over 12 million homes in the UK.

By the end of the year, around 40% of its network will have been upgraded to the new DOCSIS 3.0 network, with all 12.6 million subscribers expected to be able to access the new service by Summer 2009. The new service could eventually see maximum speeds of up to 200Mbps.

Existing Virgin Media customers can subscribe to the 50Mbps broadband service for £35 per month (assuming they already have an £11pm Virgin Media phone line). Alternatively, broadband on its own will cost £51 per month.

Customers will get a new Netgear 802.11n wireless router and 802.11n USB adapter. Interestingly, this is the first time that the Wi-Fi router will degrade performance slightly compared to those connecting via Ethernet – around 5-10% according to Virgin Media. Still, when you’re running at a theoretical maximum of 50Mbps, it’s not going to make a huge difference.

Anyone with older laptops or computers with the 802.11g Wi-Fi standard will only be able to achieve around 20-24Mbps speed with the new service unless they choose to wire up via Ethernet.

Virgin Media boasts at how fast you’ll be able to do things – an entire music album in as little as 11 seconds; a TV show in around a minute; a high quality movie in less than 3½ minutes and a High Definition movie in just over 15 minutes. The upload speed is still a paltry 1.5Mbps though, which is pretty pathetic.

What isn’t clear just yet is how many restrictions Virgin Media will put on the service, and what the range of real world speeds will be (“Speed of internet connection assumes components working at optimum speed and capacity” is the standard disclaimer). Virgin’s broadband speed throttling is a well-known phenomenon, so we’ll have to wait and see just how good the new service is.

If you’re a current or new Virgin Media customer planning the upgrade to 50Mbps broadband, share your experience in the comments below.

Virgin Media 50Mbps broadband

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Andy Merrett

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