Virgin: 50Mb broadband is a 'seismic' change

50 Mb fibre optic service coming soon
50 Mb fibre optic service coming soon

In an exclusive interview for TechRadar, Virgin Media's Head of Broadband Products Paul Elworthy has called the company's forthcoming 50Mb/s broadband package a "seismic move" that will transform the way people use their internet at home.

Elworthy insisted that the days of having to plan downloads because they take so long are coming to an end, and expressed his belief that that the step up to so called super-fast broadband connections is as big a change as the one that people took when they moved from dial-up to broadband.

TR: Why exactly do you think that people need super-fast broadband connections?

PE: The way people are using the internet is changing rapidly. We've seen an explosion in usage over the last couple of years and this is expected to grow. We believe that super fast broadband will be key in facilitating a richer online experience for our customers.

There are a number of ways in which super-fast broadband will do this. Firstly, for many customers, its simply about faster downloading - and when you think that with a 50Mb connection you could download a DVD in a few minutes or a whole CD in seconds - it's a downloader's dream.

Customers also want to do more online at the same time - whether that's downloading a file, talking to a friend, checking out a video - they want all of this without disruption.

Finally, its not uncommon now to see homes with a connected device in every room - PCs, laptops and game consoles - with everyone in the house wanting a great connection. Why share an 8Mb connection when you can share a 50Mb connection?

No doubt there will be other demands for super-fast broadband we - or even content providers - simply haven't thought of yet.

Why is a 50Mb line going to change the way that people use the web?

Introduction of 50Mb is as seismic as the move from dial up to broadband. Super-fast products like this will facilitate new services and transform the way people use their internet connections at home.
It will enable streaming of the highest quality video - not just on one device, but a number of devices in the home.

It will massively improve the quality of connection in homes where there are a number of users online at the same time - and of course it will transform the downloading experience.

How long has it taken to test this technology and bring it to market?

We've been working on and testing this technology now for nearly two years. Our delivery programme has been under way for about a year.

Its part of a massive transformation in our network build - in effect delivering a new Virgin Media network that will multiply our capacity.

Is fibre optic cable the future or will a wireless technology overhaul it?

Clearly these are two different technologies likely to satisfy very different needs. Our fibre optic network gives us the unique ability to offer superfast broadband services simply not possible - technically or commercially - via wireless technologies.

We're extremely confident that customers will continue to demand the best connections they can get wherever they are - and if that's at home it'll be fibre optic.

Will IPTV ever take off or is a hybrid solution more likely?

We're keeping an open mind on IPTV. Clearly we have an extremely strong TV offering through our cable service with the widest range of both linear and on-demand services.

We continue to explore how IPTV technology can be used to enrich the user experience and consider ourselves in a leading position to take advantage of such innovations as they mature.

How much has the BBC iPlayer fuelled people's desire for VOD on the internet?

Our experience is different from other ISPs - our customers can get BBC iPlayer over broadband as well as through our TV system, along with a massive choice of other on-demand content.

Clearly BBC iPlayer has made a huge impact in the UK and we are seeing an increase in customers accessing video content online - but we're also seeing a huge increase in customers using our pioneering TV on-demand services too.

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.