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Virgin Launches 50Mbit Cable Broadband

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It's been one of the worst kept secrets of 2008 but 12 months since the news first started filtering through Virgin Media has officially launched its potentially groundbreaking 50Mbit cable broadband service in the UK.

Described as being "nine times the average headline broadband speed in the UK" (a rather conservative description considering recent independent figures) the service will go live to a whopping 40 per cent of Virgin's entire cable network by the end of the month. The rest of the roll-out should then be completed by a similarly ambitious "summer of 2009".

So the big stuff: costs and traffic management - both complex. Price first and if you're a standalone broadband subscriber you'll be set back £51pm which in all honesty could've been a lot worse. If you combine it with a Virgin phone line (£11pm) the cost drops to £35pm while additional discounts are available when taken out with a V+ digibox.

As for traffic management, the big news is there isn't any - at least initially - though Virgin does reference a "fair usage policy" details of which I've requested and we're waiting to hear back on.

Perhaps just as interesting however is the launch of the 50Mbit service sees users moved to the new DOCSIS3 network, a next gen fibre optic network with more than double the capacity of its predecessors and the potential for speeds of up to 200Mbit (using bonded fibre - ie, lashing multiple connections together). A swanky new modem (pictured) will also be provided along with a wireless N router.

Even better is current 10Mbit and 20Mbit users will be ported to the network as well meaning the quality of their services should improve too - whether this requires the same modem upgrade however is another question left with Virgin's press office.

I'd expect answers fairly soon so check back for updates. Until then, have a click on the links below to make sure you find nothing overly objectionable in the small print...

Update: Like clockwork we've got our response: The fair usage policy really is that, in other words it is about unlawful or illegal downloading rather than an amount at this stage. Interesting... (I can hear the sobs of P2Pers from here).

Secondly, Virgin says some 10Mbit and 20Mbit customers are likely to be fine with their existing modems but will be evaluated individually with new modems supplied where necessary which seems jolly reasonable.

It's worth noting there seems to be a bug in the availability checker for certain postcodes which Virgin is looking into now so if you're effected hold tight.

Update 2: Ok, so being in a confirmed 50Mbit ready area suddenly my 20Mbit cable connection is averaging an Ubuntu image download speed of 22.4Mbit per second at 1.30pm (normally a crowded period). DOCSIS3 swap over or coincidence? If the former, then this is certainly a boost I could live with!

Update 3: Thanks to the eagle eyes of ThaDon who spotted the upload speed to be 1.5Mbit only to discover he isn't in an eligible area. My geographic commiserations to you.

Links:
50Mbit Product Page
50Mbit Availability Checker

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