Virgin Media has successfully trialled 2.2Gbps home broadband connections in the Berkshire market town of Thatcham, suggesting hyperfast speeds may soon be rolling out across the UK.
Most of Virgin Media’s network—both its coaxial cable and full-fibre connections—tops out at speeds of around 600Mbps.
However, the ISP has been rolling out a gigabit-capable upgrade to its cable network, giving a significant boost to download speeds. The 3.7 million households covered by the upgrade so far can access 1Gbps broadband (with download speeds of 1,140Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps) for £62 per month. Virgin intends to extend the upgrade to all 15 million of its premises by the end of 2021.
But these 1Gbps packages aren’t making use of the full capacity of the upgraded cable network. With the upgrade, coaxial cables can achieve peak downstream speeds of 10Gbps and upstream speeds of 2Gbps, giving Virgin plenty of space to push broadband speeds still higher and rival full-fibre networks.
Virgin has completed its first trial of this extra capability, bringing one of the fastest domestic broadband speeds to Thatcham. Virgin customers in the town are receiving download speeds of 2.2Gbps and upload speeds of 214Mbps. The boost to upload speeds suggests Virgin is now also applying the upgrade upstream.
Jeanie York, Chief Technology and Information Officer at Virgin Media, said: “We invest more than £1 billion into our network every year and this innovative trial demonstrates how Virgin Media’s existing future-proof cable network can deliver lightning-fast, multi-gigabit broadband speeds. We stand ready to power our customers’ connectivity needs for whatever comes next.
“We’re leading the charge to make the UK faster and we’re on track for rolling out gigabit broadband speeds across our network by the end of next year. With this next-generation connectivity, our customers can experience the best from their broadband—whether that’s 8K gaming, instant streaming, high quality video calls or uploading files in a flash—all in the same home at the same time.”
Virgin hasn’t indicated when it will extend 2.2Gbps speeds across its network, but it will likely be after they’ve completed the gigabit update.
A few full-fibre providers have also been pushing the sound barrier with their networks—and some of the areas they’re targeting might surprise you. Alternative network provider B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North) is offering 10Gbps packages for £150 a month to the 10,000 rural homes it reaches—although CEO Barry Forde admits he doesn’t know what domestic customers will do with a connection that fast.
Community Fibre is working with local authorities in London and other urban areas to bring similar connections to one million premises on large social housing estates by 2025.
Finally, Swish Fibre is investing £250 million to bring 10Gbps broadband to 250,000 households, starting in Buckinghamshire and targeting “underserved towns and villages where broadband availability is poor and there is strong demand for ultrafast broadband services.”
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