Virgin Media unleashes 50Mb broadband - the UK's fastest-ever internet

15 December 2008 / by Rachael Stiles
The UK will see its fastest-ever broadband service launched today – Virgin Media will be offering speeds of up to 50Mb per second, twice the speed possible with a conventional phone line.

The launch of the UK's fastest-ever internet is putting pressure on communications industry regulator Ofcom to open up Virgin Media's network to its competition as part of its vision of the future of internet access in the UK.

Half of British households will still have to make do with the broadband available through their BT line, because Virgin's lines only pass about 50 per cent of people's homes and it currently cannot afford to install them across the rest of the country.

BT announced last year that it has its own designs on providing fibre optic cable, pledging to invest £1.5billion over the next four years to connect 10 million homes, and will make its cable network available to competitors so that they can use it to provide their own services to customers.

But BT is said to have become frustrated with the competition rules which, unlike BT broadband, deem Virgin broadband as possessing an insufficient market share which makes it exempt from allowing other providers to use its own cables, while BT is forced to share.

The new Virgin Media broadband service will reach half of its network by the end of this month, while full coverage is expected by June 2009, and, despite patterns in market prices which have been pushed down by competition and the general conditions in the economy, Virgin's chief executive Neil Berkett said that the 50Mb broadband will be "premium priced".

He sees no reason to "go in cheap", he added, since the Virgin group has seen no loss from bad debts, and no rise in the number of accounts which have been cancelled because a customer could not meet payment of their bills.

"Despite the current environment, despite the doom and gloom and people choosing very wisely and frugally, customers are paying for the superior services they need for their superior data consumption" Mr Berkett said.

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