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Virgin prepares the ground for 100Mbps

But critics warn of digital gap as company talks about 400Mbps in future

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Virgin Media is set to ramp up broadband speeds in the UK. The company has announced that its 100Mbps service is set to be launched at the end of this year and will be rolled out across the country in 2011 and 2012.

The company, which started 100Mbps earlier this year, will be rolling the new service in selected areas first: Chelmsford, Farnborough and Heckmondwike are to be the guinea pigs. Virgin said that as well as 100Mbps download speed, the service will also deliver 10Mb upload speeds and a new custom-built energy-efficient combined modem and wireless router. The company also said that it would be looking to ramp up the service even more and offer 400Mbps speeds in the future. According to Virgin, a household should be able to get the new service from £35-a-month.

The new service has got the thumbs-up from some industry commentators. "The announcement from Virgin about its launch of 100Mbps broadband is no surprise, but the highly competitive price and increase in upload speeds to 10Mbps demonstrates it is committed to retaining its premium status in the provision of the fastest consumer broadband services," said Sebastien Lahtinen, co-founder of broadband comparison site thinkbroadband.com.

However, there have been dissenting voices, saying that Virgin's new service widens the digital divide between the haves and the have nots. "It is important to note that it is quite easy for Virgin to target the UK's most populated areas which are closest to their network. Virgin's move is well above the government's target of 2Mpbps and we feel the government should be working to improve the level of parity between urban and rural areas. Virgin is effectively widening the digital gap by not being able to deliver better services to the other half of the population not living in major conurbations," said Hugo Harber, director of convergence and network strategy at managed services provider Star.



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