Virgin Media boosts top speeds to 152Mb, but also bumps up bills

Virgin Media customers will see their bills go up in 2014, the provider has announced. However, it’s not all bad news, particularly for those with a need for speed…

Something's up at Virgin Media. In fact, everything's up: speed and prices alike.

What we have here is a bit of a 'good news, bad news' situation. This week, Virgin Media announced that in 2014, customers can expect their broadband bill to increase by an average of 6.7%. However, it also announced that it would boost the speed of its network up to an impressive 152Mb.

How fast is that? Well, it's enough to download the latest Arctic Monkeys album in around four seconds. Or the Hobbit in HD in around four minutes. So we're Tolkien pretty darn fast.

In fact, it's double BT's top-end fibre optic broadband, which is advertised as up to 76Mb. And it's faster than the other national providers, as they typically share the same infrastructure for fibre optic broadband.

Virgin Media's also announced that it plans to launch a new programme to boost existing customers' speeds by at least 20Mb - a pretty sizable bump up. There's no timescale set for the initiative though - bigger bills may well hit customers before better speeds do.

Of course, there is the question of whether you need faster speeds - particularly 152Mb broadband. A recent report by the Broadband Stakeholder's Group (BSG) claimed that to meet families' download demands 10 years from now, you'll need just 19Mb. Not everyone agrees though, with the head of provider KC calling the prediction a "red herring" and unambitious - an opinion we're inclined to agree with.

The point remains: anyone who finds their current Virgin Media connection fast enough for their needs isn't likely to see much tangible benefit to faster speeds in the short term. They may well feel the sting of a bigger bill, however.

If you're with Virgin Media and want to limit the impact of any price hikes, you do have some options. Here's what our very own broadband brainiac, Dominic Baliszewski, has to say:

"Customers who do not want to pay the increased cost but still want to stay with Virgin Media could simply pay for 12 months line rental upfront for £120, saving themselves around £60 over the year - more than mitigating any price increase.

"Of course, this option only works if you have the money going spare, which probably won't be true for the many low income households who would actually benefit the most from this discount."

It's also worth noting that you don't have to accept the new charges if they're too bitter a pill to swallow, as Baliszewski points out: "Virgin Media customers are already permitted to cancel their contract within 30 days of a price increase."

For those who prefer to look for alternatives, most providers now offer fibre packages, and although speeds won't match Virgin Media's top packages, you should be able to find a cheaper option. You should make sure you check what's available in your area before making any decisions though.

Find out more about broadband speeds

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