UK broadband users have been offered the tantalising prospect of 200Mbit/s - with the hint of even faster speeds.
Virgin Media is conducting a pilot trial to assess the technical viability of the technology and to assess what sort of applications it might be used for.
The trial, which will be held in Ashford, Kent, will use 100 ‘lead adopters' who will assess the technology and provide insight as to the future uses of superfast broadband. "These are educated users," said a Virgin spokesman, "People who can troubleshoot routers and happy working with the C prompt."
The spokesman said that one of the problems with delivering such a fast service was the not the network itself but the PCs. "We don't know how the PCs will be able to handle such a throughput," he said. "It will have an impact on everything from the NICs onwards. That's why we're working with vendors to see how their technologies will cope with such a speed."
The spokesman said that possible uses for the technology included IP TV, music and home security services. He also said that such a service would be very attractive for small businesses, a key market for Virgin.
He was wary about making any predictions about when 200Mbit/s technology would be offered commercially.He said that the trial would take anything from six to 12 months and there would be a period after that when Virgin assessed the results of the trial.
"I don't want to say when the service will be launched, the trial hasn't even started yet," said the spokesman. The technology being used, DOCSIS3, has been used in two other fast broadband services in Japan and the US, currently 160Mbit/s and 101Mbit/s respectively.
The spokesman said that the fibre optic rollout should ensure that the infrastructure should be able to handle 200Mbit/s and in the trial there will be no contention issues. He said that the DOCSIS3 technology being used should deliver close to the projected 200Mbit/s. "We're only using one of the two channels for the trial," he said. "We could use both and deliver 400Mbit/s in theory - but that's something way off in the future."