Virgin Media will hit the switch on its 100Mbps cable broadband in December, with the aim of rolling out the service to half of the UK by the middle of 2012.
The high-speed broadband service will launch initially on its cable network in London, the south-east and Yorkshire, the ISP announced on Wednesday. People will be able to sign up for the service in December.
Virgin Media will provide those willing to pay £45 per month — or £35, if part of a bundle — with 100Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps uploads. It also includes a new 'custom built' SuperHub wireless N router, which the company said is capable of handling up to 400Mbps in the future.
"The launch of our 100Mb service is a significant milestone," said Virgin Media's chief executive officer Neil Berkett in a statement. "The world of possibilities that broadband will enable is set to explode."
The 100Mbps package will not attract specific traffic shaping or throttling, but performance will be monitored, a spokeswoman for Virgin Media told ZDNet UK. However, the company might change that policy in the future, she said.
"As with all broadband services we provide, there is network-level traffic management during peak times to ensure at least 75 percent of the available bandwidth is allocated to time-sensitive uses such as streaming video traffic. During this period, non-time-sensitive [traffic] such as P2P or newsgroups may see speeds moderated if the network is busy," the spokeswoman said.
Virgin Media's cable-based service will be the fastest publicly available broadband in the UK when it launches, and the company expects to be able to expand to higher speeds in the future. It has already carried out trials of 200Mbps services.
However, BT has said it will start offering wholesale access to its 110Mbps fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) service once trials end in March. This means that ISPs will be able to sell the superfast broadband on to their customers in the trial locations, Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes and Highams Park in London.
In addition, Cornwall is earmarked to get BT's FTTP service by 2014, after an injection of cash from the European Regional Development Fund. The company has promised to invest £2.5bn in rolling out high-speed fibre broadband across the UK, and it has begun a survey to identify where to start.
Phil Smith, chief executive of Cisco UK and Ireland, welcomed Virgin Media's move but said it highlighted that further investment is needed in infrastructure over the medium term.
"Although the UK's infrastructure is considered sufficient for today's needs, there is still a lot more work to do if we are to meet the Government's ambition of having the best broadband infrastructure in Europe within five years," Smith said in a statement.
The most recent Ofcom figures indicate that the average broadband speed actually received in the UK is 5.2Mbps. However, Akamai's State of the Internet report from October suggests that this figure is actually lower, at just 3.9Mbps, and that only 17 percent of UK connections receive 5Mbps or more.