A year with superfast broadband

It's a very modern concept; just a few years ago telling somebody that we would be watching entire television shows streaming to our laptop might have raised an eyebrow, but now with millions of households using applications like the iPlayer as a viable alternative to the big screen the prospect of television over IP is not just looming large but increasingly prominent.

So as high data services become more popular, the need for an infrastructure that can cope with not just one stream but multiple ones becomes more pressing.. Do you need a superfast connection to watch the iPlayer? Not currently, but does it help if multiple people want to use the connection? Yes.

BBC iplayer

The other important word in that statement is 'currently'. The digital world is evolving so rapidly that it's naïve to claim that anything other than superfast connections will be the norm within the decade.

Already, the need for HD streaming is becoming clearer as people use large screen televisions to play content from the web, and this is just the start of an ever-changing sea of technologies that are more data demanding and, therefore, make it more important to have a fast connection.

Those technologies could include things like streaming 3D, streamed gaming and hundreds of things that, for the moment, are merely a gleam in their creator's eye.

By 2020, or even 2015, it would not be overly optimistic to suggest that people's internet connections will once again by under strain from what people are trying to consume in their homes. Superfast connections will be far faster that the 50Mb currently on offer and probably far in excess of the 100 and 200Mbps trials that are currently ongoing.

Let's put this in context, Virgin Media's flagship service is far from perfect. It's still a pricey purchase and age-old problems like customer support out of an Indian call-centre remain.

In the space of the year there have been significant outages, and some frustrating moments, but the proof of the pudding has been in my growing belief that fast internet is not just important, but vital for Britain's businesses and homes in the coming 10 years.

Prices will fall and it's hard not to think, slightly cynically, that customer service from all the major players will continue to frustrate, but superfast broadband is here to stay, and Virgin's continued investment in its fibre-optic infrastructure is, for the time being, central to that progression.

The 50Mbps service probably won't appeal to everyone, but with 100Mbs on the horizon and hundreds of exciting things that will start to take advantage of these super-connected homes, investing in your connection, sooner or later, seems like a fairly sensible decision.

Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.