Virgin Media Business lifts lid on bandwidth

The provider has dropped the artificial bandwidth restrictions on its business fibre services, although customers will have to sign up to a three-year contract to receive the boosted speeds

Virgin Media Business has launched new fibre services that remove bandwidth restrictions on enterprise internet access.

The Big Red Internet services, launched on Wednesday, are available at a slight premium over Virgin Media Business's (VMB) previous fibre offers, which involved restrictions. The new services are uncontended and synchronous, and are only available through VMB itself, not through third parties or bandwidth aggregators.

A customer who has been paying £12,000 a year for a managed 20Mbps service on a line capable of 100Mbps will now receive the full speed for £13,000. A customer paying £22,000 for a managed 60Mbps service will be able to get a 1Gbps service for £25,000.

VMB Big Red Internet services image

Virgin Media Business raised two fingers in Canary Wharf on Wednesday to promote its new offer. Photo credit: Virgin Media Business

"In 2010 telecom providers shouldn't be acting as gatekeepers to what British businesses need in order to innovate and grow — bandwidth," VMB managing director Mark Heraghty said in a statement.

At a briefing on Tuesday, Heraghty told ZDNet UK that the ratio of Virgin Media's network utilisation at the 10pm peak compared to that during the day was around 20:1. "We already have 186,000km of fibre around the country. We have a network that is designed fundamentally around the millions of consumers that we have, and we want to get their business when they're at work, during the day," he said.

"The incremental cost to us is zero. It actually costs us more to constrain the usage once we put fibre into the customer site, and we want to be able to give that value to the customers," he added.

According to Heraghty, the standard service-level agreement time between signing up to Big Red Internet services and receiving them is 65 days. Around 85 percent of UK businesses are able to access VMB's network.

Virgin Media Business was created in February after the rebranding of ntl:Telewest. At the time, Virgin boss Richard Branson described the abandoned name of the business services company as a "brand catastrophe".

Heraghty told ZDNet UK that, while removing the industry-standard artificial bandwidth restrictions on its fibre meant VMB could not gradually increase its offered speeds in the next few years, Big Red Internet was meant as an "acquisition tool".

"The first bit of business we'll win is internet access, and then we get the chance to get [customers'] LAN estate or WAN estate, providing multi-site, load-balancing and so on," he said. "The hard work is acquiring the customer then connecting them to the fibre."

Installation under Big Red Internet contracts is free, but customers have to sign up for three years. With VMB's previous offers — which existing customers can stay on if they wish — three-year contracts also involved free installation. Shorter-term contracts, which are not available for Big Red Internet, involved installation fees of around £7,000.

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