Virgin Media plans to start rolling out a broadband service providing speeds of up to 100Mbps to homes by the end of this year.
The high-speed service, announced on Thursday, is aimed at "tech-savvy" customers, the company said. Virgin's network will provide "very close to advertised headline speeds" due to its use of cable, rather than the more widespread ADSL technology used by competitors, it added.
"There is nothing we can't do with our fibre-optic cable network, and the upcoming launch of our flagship 100Mbps service will give our customers the ultimate broadband experience," Virgin Media chief Neil Berkett said in its statement.
The 100Mbps service will let customers download a music album in as little as five seconds, as opposed to the 75 seconds the same download would take on a 24Mbps ADSL connection, according to Virgin.
The ISP currently provides broadband services at speeds going up to 10Mbps, 20Mbps and 50Mbps, depending on the chosen package. BT offers speeds of up to 20Mbps over its ADSL network, and in January it began to roll out services of up to 40Mbps in the limited areas where it is trialling fibre-to-the-cabinet technology.
Virgin's 100Mbps cable service will probably offer uplink speeds of 10Mbps or above, company spokesman Asam Ahmad said. The 50Mbps service now offers around 1.5Mbps on the uplink.
The company has 4.1 million broadband customers, of which 3.8 million are on cable. Virgin's cable services are available to 12.6 million homes, or 51 percent of the UK population, according to Ahmad.
The first areas to be offered the 100Mbps service have not yet been confirmed, but "will be a range up and down the country", Ahmad said. The new service is expected to be deployed across Virgin's entire cable network by the end of 2011.
Ahmad declined to provide pricing for the 100Mbps service, saying it was "too early to say".
Virgin also said that it will extend its 200Mbps trials to Coventry. The trials have been taking place since May 2009 in Ashford, Kent. The work there has been focused on "future technologies and applications, such as home teleconferencing and downloading HD programmes on-demand", Virgin said.
Separately on Thursday, the company released strong fourth-quarter financial results that showed a rise in revenue, prompted by consumer customer growth. It signed up 40,600 new cable and non-cable customers in the last three months of 2009, which helped revenue increase to £980m, a year-on-year jump of 3.3 percent. Its average revenue per cable customer rose 5.8 percent, to £44.81.
Virgin said in its results statement that it now has 98 percent of its cable broadband subscribers on speeds of 10Mbps or more. In addition, the number of 20Mbps or 50Mbps subscriptions has gone up by 45 percent to 560,300 over the last year. Virgin also noted that its 50Mbps product now has 41,400 subscriptions, up 81 percent on the previous quarter.
In its business operations, however, revenue fell 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter, to £145.2m. LAN Solutions revenue dropped 28.8 percent to £38.2m, wholesale takings declined 21.7 percent to £37.6m and retail voice sales dipped 7.5 percent to £42m.
For the whole year of 2009, Virgin reported revenue of £3.8bn, up from £3.77bn the previous year. It also announced an operating income of £142m, compared with an operating loss of £271.8m in 2008.