Hell hath no fury like a telco scorned. Just one day after its parent company was rebuffed by Vodafone, Virgin Media has fired its latest salvo in the telecoms war, announcing it will launch broadband with a top speed of 200 megabytes per second, almost three times that of its nearest rivals.
Dubbed ‘Vivid’, the new broadband service is a clear statement of intent about Virgin Media's ambitions. The timing is surely a coincidence, but without the prospect of merging with Vodafone's big mobile network, it makes sense for Virgin Media to focus on making sure its broadband is top of the tree. Its fibre-obtic network is only available in 'just over half of UK homes', but its currently in the process of investign £3bn in expanding its reach.
‘Our message is simple: if you want to be certain that you are signing up to true ultrafast broadband speeds of 100Mbps and above, Vivid from Virgin Media is the new standard,’ said Virgin Media’s managing director of consumer, Gregor McNeil.
It wasn’t that long ago that 2Mbps broadband was considered speedy, and some will wonder whether anyone actually needs such a fast connection. But with people buying more wi-fi devices (not just PCs but phones, tablets, smart watches...) and the impending 'internet of things' revolution set to connect fridges, central heating and everything else to the web, it won’t be long before people want their internet to be even faster. Virgin Media says data usage on its network has been increasing 60% each year, and is on track to be 10,000% higher by 2025.
The news also piles pressure onto BT, whose subsidiary Openreach controls the fibre-optic network that is used by all of Virgin Media’s rivals, including BT itself. At present, those who use Openreach can only offer speeds as high as 76Mbps, meaning Virgin really is leaving them in its wake (except for those of its customers who aren't yet on its fibre-optic network).
On top of that, BT has been facing increased criticism for its perceived slowness in rolling out new cable, especially in rural areas. TalkTalk and Sky have called for Openreach to be spun off from BT, and today’s announcement is likely to add more fuel to their fire.