Virgin Tests 1.5 Gbps Cable Broadband

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London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ will test a Virgin 1.5Gbps service on cable, as the super-fast broadband battle heats up

Virgin Media said on Wednesday it would begin trialling Internet speeds of up to 1.5 Gbps in the area of Old Street in east London, nicknamed “Silicon Roundabout“.

The trials will use Virgin’s current cable network infrastructure and will feature upload speeds of 150 Mbps, Virgin said.

World’s fastest cable

If successful the technology will be the world’s fastest cable connection, and would be 240 times faster than the national average broadband speeds, estimated by Ofcom (PDF) at 6.2 Mbps as of December 2010.

Virgin said tests of similar technology have already shown cable can deliver download speeds of 1 Gbps.

The companies taking part in the trial are all in creative industries, working in areas such as online and mobile video, web applications and bespoke broadcasting services, but Virgin said it expects the higher speeds to be increasingly in demand by consumers for services such as remote healthcare and online education.

“While the average home might not need these speeds quite yet, we certainly will,” stated Sam Orams, co-founder of BespokeBanter.com, which is taking part in the trials. “The internet is critical to what we do and intrinsically linked to our future growth.”

Virgin highlighted the fact that it has invested £13bn into its network and that homes are linked to the network by coaxial cables, rather than the copper typically employed by BT.

“Our growing network provides a highly competitive alternative to the fastest fibre networks of the future and, with our ongoing investment plans, we can anticipate and meet demand as it develops over time, ensuring Virgin Media business and residential customers continue to enjoy world-class broadband,” said Jon James, Virgin Media executive director of broadband, in a statement.

“Demand for greater bandwidth is growing rapidly as more devices are able to connect to the internet and as more people go online simultaneously,” he stated.

Bonding multiple channels

The speed increases are achieved by bonding multiple downstream and upstream channels together, allowing them to be used at the same time by a single subscriber, Virgin said. The Data-Over-Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS) 3.0 standard Virgin currently incorporates support for IPv6, the next generation Internet protocol, the company said.

Virgin claimed that DOCSIS has “theoretically near-infinite” potential for further capacity increases.

Virgin is currently locked in a battle with BT over high-speed broadband, and last week saw the arrival of a third player, Fujitsu, which has promised to spread 1Gbps fibre to homes in rural areas. In an attempt to further boost next-generation broadband rollout, the UK government plans to offer £830 million to private companies capable of providing the superfast connection in rural areas.

Fast broadband is growing quickly, with Point Topic predicting premises connected to broadband with download speeds of over 25 Mbps would surpass 250,000 by the end of April.

In a statement, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government can encourage broadband rollout by “stimulating competition and creating an environment in which business can flourish by removing barriers and cutting costs”.

Earlier this year, Ofcom asked telecoms giant BT to reduce its charges for rival ISPs in accessing its network in rural communities. The price cut would enable ISPs to allocate more bandwidth per customer, resulting in faster broadband services, said the regulator.

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