Virgin Media has announced a head-spinningly speedy 152Mbps broadband service to fire up in February next year and improve speeds across the board -- but price rises are coming with it.
The unlimited 152Mb service will reach 12.5 million homes across the country that are served by Virgin Media's own fibre-optic cable network.
That's double the speed of the Openreach FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) network owned by BT and rented out by other broadband providers. BT's own rival super-fast service BT Infinity has a current maximum speed of 76Mbps, although Openreach does have a faster FTTP (fibre to the premises) in some areas.
'Claims don't stand up'
But BT is quick to fire back in no uncertain terms. "Virgin Media’s claims don’t stand up to close scrutiny," blasts a BT spokesperson. "Their network only covers 12.5 million homes in the UK, while BT’s fibre network already passes 17 million homes and businesses and continues to grow. Only days ago, Virgin Media was again rapped by the ASA for claiming their broadband was 'unlimited' while throttling some customers' speeds by up to 40 per cent; customers could still find their speed cut by 16 per cent by Virgin Media at peak times.
"It’s not clear how soon Virgin Media will be offering these download speed upgrades, how much customers will have to pay and whether the large number of their customers on 30Mbps will think it is worth the extra money."
Broadband boost across the board
Even if you don't go for the super-duper-fast service, Virgin reckons the improvements will drag everyone else's speeds up by their bootstraps, boosting speeds by at least 20Mb over your current service.
You don't need to change packages to see improved service: next year, you should simply see better speeds without changing a thing. If your speed increases enough for you to need a new Super Hub router, Virgin will send you one for just the cost of the stamp.
Virgin Media is planning some price increases in the new year. A spokesperson told me today that the cost of talk plans are not changing, but prices will change depending on which bundle you're subscribed to. Virgin suggests that cable bills will increase by 6.7 per cent on average in February -- we'll keep you posted when we find out the full details.
"Price rises are never welcome," says industry expert Sebastien Lahtinen of thinkbroadband.com, but "the key will be what price range becomes the average. We do need to remember that broadband and TV bundles are generally a lot cheaper in the UK than many other countries. If the price rise helps fund networking improvements, this will hopefully improve capacity at peak times and allow people to do even more even if staying on their existing packages."
"The claims of being twice as fast as anyone else is a somewhat selective comparison to say the least," Lahtinen adds, "but this is great news for consumers and a welcome boost for those in households with lots of people using the connection. The disappointing side is that the upload speeds are not expected to increase either on the new 'fastest' product or on current products, so users will still be restricted to 12Mbps upstream."
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