Virgin Media demos 200Mb superfast broadband for the home of the future

At this year's Ideal Home Show, on now until April 5th at Earls Court in London, Virgin Media is showing-off what it hopes will be the broadband service of the future.

In a small corner of the show floor you'll find three computers, and this is the UK's first ever demonstration of 200Mb broadband. The service is currently on trial with selected 'high usage' users in parts of Kent and Coventry but this is the first time the hoi polloi can see it in action.

Of course staring at a collection of optical fibres sending information at the speed of light – yes, really – isn't, as exciting as it may sound, going to be much to look at. The true visual realisation comes with the results when downloading and streaming content.

According to Virgin Media, a 60MB music album would currently take the average UK broadband connection – rated at 4.1Mb by Ofcom – around 2 minutes 10 seconds to download. Jump to a 200Mb broadband connection and you'll be done and dusted in just 3 seconds. Not too shabby, eh?

But the real time savings come when we deal with TVs and films, and of course, high definition. A 5GB HD movie from Xbox Live Marketplace will take 3 hours and 1 minute on today's average connection but just 3 minutes and 42 seconds on Virgin Media's broadband of the future.

What's more, as the demonstration at the Ideal Home Show allows anyone to see, streaming high quality BBC iPlayer programmes over a network of three computers proved no problem at all – such a scenario on today's average connection might not be so clever.

And that was the key point Virgin was keen to stress: while the speedy figures might grab the headlines, the real use – especially for high usage users of high quality content – will come when we have a number of devices all leeching off the same connection.

It requires very little imagination to see a four-person household require a connection capable of downloading or streaming HD movies or games to four devices at the same time, something that your average connection would struggle to deliver. With a 200Mb broadband connection it wouldn't be a problem for that or many more devices to be connected and using the same broadband connection.

It's not just TVs, consoles, PCs and the like that we can expect to be a drain on our broadband connections. If you believe what you see in Virgin Media's Future Home demonstration at the Ideal Home Show, then we won't have to wait until 2062 to be living in Jetsons-style, futuristic, connected homes.

Baths that will run to a required temperature at the behest of a text message, fridges that update according to what food you take out and toothbrushes that give you a full health check from a quick brush are all in the pipeline – and will use your broadband connection to keep you updated and connected.

As Ashley Stockwell, executive director, brand and marketing at Virgin Media, said: "Ultrafast broadband will enable a whole household to enjoy cutting edge entertainment through an array of gadgets all over the home. By pushing the boundaries of broadband in the UK we hope to drive a change in the way Brits enjoy and experience digital entertainment."

While 50Mb is available now from Virgin Media in just over half of all homes in the UK, the company is aiming to deliver a 100Mb service by the end of the year with a 200Mb connection to follow as soon as possible. Until then, we'll just have to imagine the possibilities...

Joe Cox
Content Director

Joe is Content Director for T3 and What Hi-Fi?, having previously been the Global Editor-in-Chief of What Hi-Fi?. He has worked on What Hi-Fi? across the print magazine and website for more than 15 years, writing news, reviews and features on everything from turntables to TVs, headphones to hi-fi separates. He has covered product launch events across the world, from Apple to Technics, Sony and Samsung; reported from CES, the Bristol Show, and Munich High End for many years; and written for sites such as the BBC, Stuff, and the Guardian. In his spare time, he enjoys expanding his vinyl collection and cycling (not at the same time).