When it comes to fibre optic broadband in the UK at present, Virgin Media blazes a superfast trail that other providers can but follow.
Virgin Media (www.Virginmedia.com) is the current leader of the superfast, fibre optic broadband pack, regularly topping the list in Ofcom's broadband speed tests. Virgin Media's fibre optic cable network covers more than half of the country.
Current fibre network availability
With billions already invested in its fibre network,, mostly in urban areas, almost half of the UK population can already access Virgin Media's superfast broadband with speeds of up to 30Mb, 60Mb and 100Mb.
Virgin Media's 100Mb broadband service is already available to more than a third of the UK, and some existing customers are having their speeds upgraded to up to 120Mb too. It has also trialled an up to 200Mb connection, and even a 1.5Gb connection.
Use our postcode checker to find out if your area is already covered.
Future plans for fibre optic
Virgin Media is continuing to upgrade its fibre network. As well as continuing to roll out up to 100Mb broadband, it has started an upgrade project to double download speeds for existing customers.
That means its old 10Mb and 30Mb packages will each double. Its 50Mb and 100Mb packages will both be increased to 120Mb - with 100Mb customers receiving a discount.
According to Virgin Media, the amount of data being downloaded by its customers has grown by an average of 43% a year since 2007. With demand for the increased bandwidth provided by faster speeds at an all time high, Virgin Media has clearly focused itself on catering for the high usage consumer.
Virgin Media's chief executive, Neil Berkett, said: "We have continued to focus relentlessly on delivering superior services tailored to the needs of data-hungry households."
Virgin Media consistently performs well in telecom regulator Ofcom's broadband speed tests, regularly delivering actual speeds between 90-96% of the advertised speeds.
Hot on Virgin Media's heels though is BT. Its BT Infinity product, offers up to 76Mb broadband to two-thirds of the population giving it a wider coverage than its rival. Its 100Mb broadband connection, which is currently only available to a small number of customers, is being rolled out using technology that is capable of delivering speeds of up to 300Mb - keeping Virgin Media on its toes for the foreseeable future.
What are benefits of fibre optic broadband?
Having a fibre optic broadband connection brings an array of benefits:
- Multiple users can be online at the same time without experiencing a drop in speed - perfect for family households or shared student accommodation
- Downloading albums, TV shows or films will take just minutes...even in HD
- Users can enjoy uninterrupted TV/film viewing as fibre broadband eliminates buffering delays during streaming
- Consistent speeds mean gamers won't experience a connection lag at that critical point in their game.
Government broadband strategy
In 2010, the government announced an £830 million strategy to create the best broadband network in Europe by 2015. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, outlined plans which include delivery of a "digital hub" in every community in the country including those rural communities who are often overlooked in the rapidly changing broadband market.
Fibre optic broadband v traditional phone line connection
After dial-up internet connections came broadband. Delivered via the nationwide network of copper telephone wires, broadband enabled users to stay permanently connected to the internet and didn't tie up the landline while users were online.
However, broadband delivered via telephone wire is subject to a range of factors which significantly reduce the actual speed of your connection, including distance from the exchange and quality of the wiring. This means that the speeds that consumers get are rarely close to the "up to" speeds advertised.
Fibre optic is the next-generation of broadband and is considered "futureproof". Fibre cables were designed for lightning fast data transfer and, while there are still some of the same factors affecting the connection speed, these have a much smaller impact. This means consumers get actual broadband speeds significantly closer to the advertised speeds than users connected via the telephone network can achieve.
Compare Virgin Media with other fibre optic broadband providers
Use our postcode checker to see how Virgin Media compare to the other fibre broadband providers on the market.