Virgin Media doubling broadband speed - what’s the score?

ByKelvin Goodson
Virgin Media logo

Virgin Media has announced that it plans to double its broadband speeds, but where will it double speeds first? How much will it cost you? Will you need to get a new router? Read on to find out...

Virgin Media has announced that it plans to double its broadband speeds, but where will it double speeds first? How much will it cost you? Will you need to get a new router? Read on to find out...

Virgin Media is doubling broadband speeds for the majority of its existing broadband customers.

The "fastest broadband provider in the UK" hopes to strengthen its position as the country's number one choice for speedy internet access by bumping its top speed up to 120Mb.

This is big news, but details are thin on the ground at the time of writing. Yet whether you're already a Virgin Media customer or are considering switching broadband provider, you probably have some questions about the speed boost.

Fear not, because broadbandchoices has delved beneath the headlines to deliver you the lowdown on what you can expect from Virgin Media doubling its broadband speeds.

Will Virgin Media double all its broadband speeds?

Almost, but not quite. Virgin Media (www.Virginmedia.com) will double the speed of its 10Mb and 30Mb broadband connections, while the speed of 20Mb connections will be trebled.

The provider's 50Mband100Mbconnections will both be increased to 120Mb - a 140% increase for one, a 20% increase for the other.

Those that currently have 100Mb connections will get a price reduction to make up for the fact that people with 50Mb connections will be getting the same speed as them after the upgrade.

No further details on this are available at present, but Virgin Media promises that all will be revealed soon. Either way, 120Mb will be the fastest "widely available" broadband in the country according to the provider.

Current Virgin Media broadband speed New Virgin Media broadband speed
10Mb 20Mb

 

20Mb 60Mb
30Mb 60Mb
50Mb 120Mb
100Mb 120Mb

What will Virgin Media's new top speed of 120Mb give me that my current speed doesn't?

It will give you the ability to download an entire music album in around five seconds or so and a high-definition (HD) movie in around five minutes.

With an 8Mb connection - just above the national average broadband speed - it will take you over 20 minutes to download an HD flick and one minute to get an album.

With the dial-up connections most of us were using in the late 1990s, it would have taken you two hours to download one music track. An HD movie would probably take longer to download over dial-up than it took to shoot the thing in the first place.

How much will it cost me for Virgin Media to double my speed?

Despite reports that Virgin Media will spend £110million on upgrading its infrastructure to boost your broadband, the beauty of it is that, if you're a Virgin Media customer, your speed will be increased at no extra cost to you.

And, as mentioned earlier, Virgin Media customers who currently subscribe to a 100Mb connection will actually get a price reduction when their speed is bumped up to 120Mb!

What's the point in my speed being increased for free if I'm going to get stung for going over my download limit?

Well, the first thing to remember is that all Virgin Media broadband packages are unlimited, meaning you can download as much music and as many movies as you like as long as you don't breach its acceptable use policy.

Virgin Media has also announced that its upload speeds, traffic management levels and acceptable use amounts will be increased in proportion to the increase in download speeds.

However, if you have a high-speed connection with another provider, keep an eye on how much data you are using. As Michael Phillips, CEO at broadbandchoices, says: "Although all Virgin Media packages have unlimited data usage, not all superfast broadband deals have this perk, so remember to keep an eye on the volume of data being downloaded to avoid any unpleasant 'excess usage' fines in your monthly bill."

When will Virgin Media double my speed?

Virgin Media will start boosting broadband speeds from next month, with the upgrade programme expected to be completed mid-2013.

Want to find out when Virgin Media will be getting to you? Then head to www.virginmedia.com/doublespeeds and enter your postcode to see when your speed will be boosted.

I live in the middle of nowhere - does this mean Virgin Media will leave boosting my speed until last?

Not on your nelly, according to Virgin Media. Technology news and reviews website Wired.co.uk reported that a Virgin Media spokesperson said "it won't just be large population areas getting the upgrades first - smaller towns are just as likely to receive the boost before bigger cities".

The same spokesperson told Broadbandchoices.co.uk that the speed boost will be prioritised by when particular telephone exchanges are free to be upgraded rather than by how many Virgin Media customers are based in an area.

Will I need to replace any of hardware when Virgin Media boost my speed?

Most Virgin Media customers won't need to. However, some will need to replace their modem - the device that enables a computer to transmit data over Virgin Media's cable network - to cope with the speed boost. This is housed, along with the router, in the Virgin Media Super Hub many of the company's customers have.

Fear not though, for Virgin Media ain't expecting you to stump up the cash for this - new modems capable of receiving speeds of up to 400Mb will be provided as part of the upgrade, and the provider will be contacting customers to let them know if this applies to them.

Do I need my broadband speed to be doubled?

There is no ideal speed that your broadband should be - it all comes down to what you as an individual do online and how often you do it. The same applies to whether Virgin Media doubling its broadband speeds will benefit you or not.

For example, if you don't spend much more than an hour or two a day online and your most common activities when using the internet are checking your emails, updating Facebook and visiting the likes of Amazon and BBC News, then chances are the difference you'll experience from Virgin Media's speed upgrade will be minimal.

If, on the other hand, you spend four or more hours a day on the internet, using the likes of BBC iPlayer and Channel 4's 4OD to watch TV via your broadband connection, playing multiplayer games online and downloading movies and music, then the speed boost should make doing these things quicker, easier and smoother.

Will I have superfast broadband when Virgin Media doubles my speed?

The communications regulator Ofcom defines superfast broadband as faster than 24Mb.

This means that, other than those with a 10Mb connection, all Virgin Media customers will have superfast broadband following the upgrade.

Do I need superfast broadband?

This is very similar to asking what speed your broadband needs to be, as there is no definitive answer - again it all comes down to what you do online and how often you do it.

Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards recently said that demand for superfast broadband is relatively low and that it is of most interest to households with teenagers, as it can cope with the heavy internet usage of younger people who are more likely to use social media and stream and share music, videos and photos.

While this is true, there are other reasons why you may need superfast broadband. For a start, with many of us owning an increasing range of internet-connected devices - from smartphones to tablets to TV sets - superfast broadband provides the bandwidth needed to connect them all simultaneously.

When Virgin Media announced its speed upgrade, the provider's chief executive officer, Neil Berkett, said that faster broadband allows people to access "exciting, next-generation services". Examples of these are Netflix, and cloud gaming platforms like OnLive

What do you think about Virgin Media doubling speeds?

Back to Michael Phillips: "Virgin Media's decision to boost broadband speeds for its customers is great news, made even sweeter by the fact it's offering it at no increased cost.

"The way we use the internet has changed dramatically over the last few years and many families now access online content at the same time, with dad on the laptop, mum on the computer and the kids on their iPhones or game console. Recent Ofcom stats revealed that the average home consumes a whopping 17GB of data every month. Bandwidth-hungry activities like online TV, gaming and streaming music all demand the faster speeds that Virgin Media is promising to deliver."

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