Virgin Media's top executive has said that the company will be launching a 50Mbps broadband package in 2008. Speaking at a next-generation broadband summit and reported by Channel 4 News, Virgin's acting CEO Neil Berkett said: "We'll never know exactly what demand there'll be for super-fast broadband until it's in people's homes and workplaces up and down the UK.

And Berkett was keen to announce Virgin's plans for next year. "[Our] network has a unique potential to revolutionise consumers' experience and we're convinced that 2008 is the moment to take the lead with the commercial launch of a 50Mbps product."

Virgin has already been trialling 50Mbps broadband in some areas. Indeed, the trial has now developed significantly, and Virgin is offering it to any customers in the Ashford, Folkestone and Dover areas for £47 a month until the end of December.

Fibre to the cabinet

The seminar was organised by the Minister of State for Competitiveness, Stephen Timms. It followed up a gathering of many interested parties, including Tech.co.uk at last week's Westminster eForum discussion about next-generation broadband.

At that event, Virgin's CTO Howard Watson pushed home benefits of cable over traditional copper-based ADSL. Watson suggested that copper's limitations was responsible for the "'up to' which had created the unfortunate need for the 'up to' lexicon in the broadband industry."

"We have 12.5 million homes (52 per cent) where I have fibre to a cabinet within 800 metres of those homes. We have 15 million short copper loops [going into those homes] And we have coaxial which has this ability to carry something around 4Gbps to each of the 500 homes off each network," explained Watson.

"So we have a next-generation access network serving [those homes]. One of the great things about that is because of the fibre being deep with that network."