Following the initial launch in Southampton, Virgin Media has announced Manchester is the second city in the UK which will be offered ‘gigabit’ speed broadband services.
The overarching plan is to bring gigabit speed broadband services to 15 million homes by the end of 2021, and starting today, 500,000 homes in the Manchester region will be able to sign-up to the eye-watering download speeds.
“Manchester is a major centre for Virgin Media and the place our Project Lightning network expansion first started, so switching on our hyper fast gigabit services will help to once again transform connectivity across the city and surrounding areas,” said Jeff Dodds, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media.
“The Government has called for nationwide gigabit connectivity and we’re helping them leap forward to reach this ambition by turning on our next-generation Gig1 broadband across our entire network over the next 24 months – a speed and scale unmatched by anyone else.”
Starting at £62 a month for an 18-month contract, with prices frozen for 24 months, this certainly isn’t a broadband package for everyone. How many people feel they need the 1,104 Mbps peak speed which is being promised is another dubious question, though it won’t be long before services emerge which create the demand. It might sound ridiculous, but when the networks have been created, someone always comes up with a way to use the speed headroom.
While it all sounds very promising, there is a big difference to the speeds down the pipe and what is experienced in the home.
Speaking at Broadband World Forum in Amsterdam, Ramón Garcia of semiconductor firm KDPOF highlighted that the router is the main problem for many consumers. After conducting research, Garcia highlighted that many homes are not set-up to experience gigabit speeds, suggesting not enough work has been done by telcos to spread the connectivity euphoria away from the router.
Although there has been a lot of work done to develop wifi mesh systems to improve connectivity throughout the home, there are circumstances where a wired backbone would have to be introduced to improve coverage. This is something which has largely been ignored by the telcos, as the main concern is to improve speeds down the pipe while little attention has been paid to the router and beyond.
This might be a stumbling block for Virgin Media, though it did introduce ‘intelligent wifi’ earlier this year which aims to improve the allocation of connectivity in the home. The software will not only choose the least congesting channel but will also allocate bandwidth to devices depending on what applications are being run.
With this launch, Virgin Media are offering another upgraded router, the Hub 4, which boasts more antennae than its predecessor. This does not necessarily address the issues of the far away corners of the home, but it is certainly another incremental upgrade to improve customer experience.
Whether the Mancs are able to experience the same speeds promised by Virgin Media remains to be seen, though we remain hopeful as this is further evidence the UK is sorting itself out when it comes to fixed connectivity. For years, the UK has languished in the ‘also ran’ category when it comes to broadband connectivity and fibre-to-the-home deployment, though there is gathering momentum.