Virgin Media to test 50Mb broadband in Kent

Major upgrade to Virgin's cable broadband service to be beta tested by customers in areas of Kent including Dover, Ashford and Folkestone.

Virgin Media will begin public trials next month of its 50Mb cable broadband service, selecting areas of Kent for the initial trial.

Folkestone is currently running a free trial of the 50Mb service, albeit on a scattergun basis, but from the beginning of October testers will be charged an as yet unspecified subscription, expected to be in the region of 47 a month. Trials in Ashford and Dover will begin at the same time, with similar charging expected.

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The trial will run from 1 October until the end of December.

Virgin is using the latest version of DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications), the protocol that enables cable companies to send data signals over the same wires they use to deliver television signals.

DOCSIS 3.0 increases transmissions speeds both upstream and downstream. This means Virgin can offer upload speeds as high as 1.5Mb/sec in addition to 50Mb/sec for incoming data.

When deployed nationwide, many existing customers wanting to upgrade will need to be sent new cable modems, as many of the units currently in use by the company do not support DOCSIS 3.0 or 50Mb throughput.

Meanwhile BT is beginning implementation of its 21st Century Network (21CN) which will, at best, provides speeds up to 22Mb/sec using DSL technology on the last mile. The company has rejected calls to improve on this with the costly installation of optical fibres. But yesterday the minister of state for competitiveness, Stephen Timms, said that the government is considering funding fibre-to-the-home to ensure the UK remains competitive.

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"Other countries are starting to invest in new, fibre-based infrastructure, delivering considerably higher bandwidth than is available in the UK today," he said.

More information is available as follows: Ashford; Folkestone; and Dover.

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