Virgin Media tests 8Gbps home broadband service

Fifty residents of Papworth, Cambridgeshire, are trialling an 8Gbps FTTP broadband service using existing fibre infrastructure

A six-month trial of hyperfast broadband technology will see 50 homeowners in the village of Papworth, Cambridgeshire, receive a broadband connection capable of delivering download speeds of 8Gbps, more than 216 times the UK domestic average.

The trials are being conducted by internet service provider (ISP) Virgin Media using enhanced Ethernet Passive Optical Networking (Epon) equipment and software developed by networking technology supplier Arris, which will run over Virgin Media’s existing fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband network.

This is not the first time the residents of Papworth have taken part in trials of new broadband delivery technology. The area served as an innovation testbed for Virgin Media and hosted tests of 1Gbps FTTP services five years ago, as well as for trials of narrow trenching deployment – a methodology that aims to minimise disruption to local road infrastructure during network builds.

“Whether it’s streaming UHD movies on Netflix, playing the latest games online or video conferencing, faster internet connections have changed our lives immeasurably over the past decade,” said Richard Sinclair, Virgin Media executive director of connectivity. “As speed leaders, Virgin Media is not going to stand still – this trial is about looking ahead to the next decade and beyond.

“With the volume of our customers’ internet usage almost doubling every year, trials like this will ensure we have the capability to meet the demand of data-hungry services in the future, be that over cable or full-fibre.”

The 8Gbps tests were independently verified by SamKnows, a broadband service quality checker, and official partner of telecoms regulator Ofcom, which had to fast-track the creation of a new service checking tool in order to lend its expertise.

“We measure broadband speeds around the world and this trial has been delivering speeds far in excess of what we typically see in customers’ homes,” said Sam Crawford, founder and CTO of SamKnows.

“By using SamKnows certified measurements, Virgin Media was able to inexpensively troubleshoot issues quickly and consistently to deliver innovative multi-gigabit speeds to real customers.”

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Virgin Media said an 8Gbps broadband connection could download ultra-HD 4K films and TV shows in a matter of seconds, compared with about 15 minutes on an average connection. A large gaming file, such as Red Dead Redemption, which clocks in at 99GB of data, would take two minutes, compared with five hours on an average connection.

Applied futurologist and author Tom Cheesewright, who reviewed the trial as an independent observer, said: “Each new leap in internet speeds has spurred a new round of innovation in digital services.

“Today we are just starting to glimpse the immersive communication and entertainment opportunities that speeds like this will enable, bringing the physical and digital worlds together into a rich, interactive environment.”

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