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Tech behind Virgin Media cable network hits 10Gbits/sec

Lab tests prove there's plenty of speed left in the tech that underpins Virgin's broadband

The technology used to power Virgin Media’s broadband network has hit 10Gbits/sec in trials, proving there’s much more speed to come from the cable provider. Virgin currently offers connections with speeds of up to 152Mbits/sec to cable customers, but the latest lab tests suggest it could easily hit multi-gigabit speeds in the coming years. 

The trials were conducted using the latest version of the DOCSIS technology that underpins Virgin’s cable network. The first interoperability tests showed DOCSIS 3.1 was capable of reaching 10Gbits/sec downstream and 1Gbit/sec on the uplink.

The success of this first DOCSIS 3.1 interop validates that multi-gigabit services will soon be a reality for cable broadband customers,” said Tom Lookabaugh, chief research and development officer at CableLabs, which conducted the test. “Operators around the world can now look forward to a new generation of capabilities added to their DOCSIS based networks.”

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Virgin Media said it was participating in DOCSIS 3.1 testing earlier this summer, as it looked to move beyond the DOCSIS 3 technology that it’s been rolling out over the past couple of years. However, even with such theoretical speeds available, the actual speed customers receive will likely be much lower, once local capacity and available backhaul bandwidth have been taken into consideration.

Nonetheless, it raises the prospect that Virgin Media may offer gigabit services in the foreseeable future. BT’s pure fibre connections currently top out at 300Mbits/sec, but there are localised providers such as Hyperoptic in London that already offer gigabit broadband services. 

Perhaps the only thing preventing Virgin and others from boosting their speeds is a lack of demand. The 152Mbits/sec connections can already handle more than a dozen simultaneous streams of HD video, and even multiple 4K video streams. Downloading a full HD movie would only take a matter of minutes – provided customers haven’t fallen foul of Virgin’s traffic thresholds, which limit the amount of data users can download within an hour at peak times. 

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