Most of us can still remember the horrors of dial-up internet: being unable to make a phone call while online; the seemingly endless wait while the modem tried to establish a connection; the pain of waiting a full half-hour to download a single low-bitrate music file. How far we have come since those dark days – and yet, even today, almost all of us still have those moments when the web feels just too darned slow.
In the UK, the average internet connection speed now stands at just over 6Mbps – adequate for most tasks, but in the modern multi-computer household, the available bandwidth at that speed quickly gets eaten up when more than one user is, for example, streaming HD video from YouTube. With the increasing consumption of multimedia content over the web, the need for speed is increasing.
It’s against this backdrop that Virgin Media recently unveiled its vision of a faster broadband future, bringing downstream speeds of up to 1.5Gbps (and 150Mbps upstream) to London’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’, an area of the capital near its financial district which has grown to become a major hub for digital enterprise and tech start-ups in the UK. The speeds being delivered as part of this trial are over 240 times faster than the national average, and provide enough bandwidth to stream ten 3D movies simultaneously.
Jon James, executive editor of Virgin Media broadband, said: “As people are simultaneously connecting more gadgets to the internet and doing more online than ever before […] Virgin Media is delivering some of the fastest broadband in the world and, thanks to our ongoing investment, we're able to anticipate and lead the way in meeting growing demand for bandwidth.”
Ed Vaizey, the UK’s Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, underlined the importance of such trials as being a key instrument to “attract new companies and entrepreneurs, bringing new jobs and growth” to areas that see this sort of technological advancement.
The speeds being trialled may seem almost fantastically fast, but the delivery infrastructure is identical to that already being used by Virgin Media to bring its up-to-100Mbps service to residential customers. While it’s unlikely that Virgin will be offering a 1.5Gbps service to end-users any time soon, the flexibility of the company’s network in being able to offer these speeds in the future (without costly infrastructure upgrades) will surely prove to be an advantage for Virgin, and ultimately beneficial to its customers in the long term.