Virgin Media is racking up the PR battle in response to the FTTC/FTTH news from the BT Group. The Chief Technology Office Howard Watson has been talking to Reuters and revealed plans to be offering 200Mbps connections by 2012.
200Mbps cable broadband is possible since the DOCSIS 3.0 specification, which is behind the forthcoming 50Mbps roll-out, is capable of speeds of 200Mbps when using 4 channels and up to 400Mbps if 8 channels are used.
If Virgin Media can produce an affordable 200Mbps product in under four years, that would ensure the UK does not fall further behind in the global broadband race. A concern of this announcement and other faster headline speed products is whether the back haul networks will be grown in size too. Without massive investment in the back haul networks, situations where the actual usage experience is not much better than now may prevail. Certainly the consumer experience in some countries with 100Mbps and 1Gbps products available now, is such that people do not see the maximum speed that often.
The interview trots out the usual reasons for consumers wanting high speed broadband which are high definition video, interactive gaming and teleconferencing in multiple rooms. Whether the public really wants these things is another matter, and even if we all do, what price are we willing to pay? To benefit from broadband even at speeds in excess of 20Mbps a great many people will need to upgrade their wireless networks, as 802.11g runs out of steam in the real world at around 15 to 20Mbps. For broadband connections running at 100Mbps and faster even the average Ethernet network will need new wiring and hardware, and lets not forget that for a computer to render a good quality HD video it needs to be pretty fast.