With more and more devices requiring an internet connection, it is increasingly necessary for our broadband to handle multiple devices at once. Into this data-hungry world steps Virgin Media with the fastest widely available broadband in the UK. But just how fast is it, and what can you actually do with it?
All Virgin Media's broadband packages fall into the Superfast (over 30Mbps) or Ultrafast (over 300Mbps) categories. So any comparisons we make are with the fibre broadband offered by Virgin Media's competitors. Now that's out of the way, let's take a look at what speeds Virgin Media has to offer.
According to research by the industry regulator Ofcom, customers on Virgin Media VIVID 50 get average download speeds between 46.1Mbps and 49.6Mbps, which is extremely close to the advertised speed of 50Mbps. Virgin says the average upload speed for this package is 3Mbps, and Ofcom agrees, with an average upload speed recorded of 3.03Mbps.
Despite being the entry-level package from Virgin Media, VIVID 50 has a respectable average download speed of 52Mbps. How useful that is depends on how many devices your household uses at the same time. For people who live alone, VIVID 50 is easily enough to stream a 4K movie on Netflix, while surfing the web or watching videos on another device.
Step down from 4K to HD video streaming and you can watch on three or four devices, while also surfing on your laptop. VIVID 50 can stream standard definition video on several devices at once without breaking a sweat. Those who work from home have plenty of download speed to play with, but upload speeds are relatively slow at just 3Mbps. This could be frustrating if you work with large files. The same applies to hardcore gamers, who will want a quicker, less laggy upload.
Low upload speeds also affect the use of cloud storage. Uploading your photo library will be slower using VIVID 50 than the faster packages below, but 200 photos will upload in around six or seven minutes.
VIVID 50 will only run into problems if three or four people use multiple devices at once. But it's worth remembering that most of us do use multiple devices these days. Something to bear in mind if you are choosing a package for a busy household.
VIVID 50 may be Virgin Media's slowest offer, but it competes well with other providers' offerings, most of which offer entry-level speeds of just 36Mbps. Only BT, which offers an average of 50Mbps for its entry-level fibre speed, is on a par. Upload speeds are another matter, as VIVID 50's 3Mbps upload speed is slow compared to its main rivals, which offer around the 8-10Mbps mark.
Ofcom's research shows average download speeds of 87.7Mbps-95.2Mbps, not quite reaching 100Mbps. The average upload speed recorded is 6Mbps according to Ofcom, which is also what Virgin states customers on VIVID 100 can expect. However, Virgin itself claims an average speed of 104Mbps at peak time.
VIVID 100 takes things up a notch in terms of how many devices you can use at once. It is fast enough to stream several HD movies simultaneously, while also surfing the net and checking emails or social media. You could comfortably watch 4K movies on two devices, with plenty left over for people using other devices. Gamers will get by with the 6Mbps upload speed, as should those who work from home and need to upload files.
Although BT has launched 100Mbps fibre broadband, it is not yet widely available and so Virgin can still claim the prize for this speed.
However VIVID 100 falls behind when it comes to upload speed. The 6Mbps on offer falls well behind the 19-20Mbps offered by its rivals on a 67Mbps package. Although just bear in mind that VIVID 100 is still one of Virgin Media's two entry-level packages, yet we are comparing it with the very top packages from rivals such as BT or Sky.
Over a period of 24 hours Ofcom found the average download speed of VIVID 200 to be 169.0Mbps-177.2Mbps, so some way off the advertised up to 200Mbps, but still way faster than its competitors. The upload speed averaged 12Mbps, which agrees with Virgin's claims. However, Virgin claims at least 50 per cent of its customers can achieve 199Mbps at peak times. Ultimately, whichever average speed you go with, you know its going to be fast.
High Definition (HD) movies tend to be around 4GB in size, so at full speed, you could download an HD movie in 2:51 minutes. This is very fast, especially when you consider that only a few years ago it would have taken over an hour with ADSL broadband. 200Mbps is more than enough to stream several 4K or HD movies simultaneously, while performing other web-based tasks at the same time.
The faster upload speed with this package is also a bonus for gamers and home-workers who will appreciate the faster response times and quicker uploads respectively. VIVID 200 offers the ability for everyone in the average home to do exactly what they want online, without slowing each other down.
From here on in, we are in clear water – Virgin Media has left its competition in the shallows. VIVID 200 offers more than double the maximum download speed of any main competitor.
Upload speed averages 12Mbps, which remains slower than the 19-20Mbps possible from other providers (with a 67Mbps conenction), but not low enough for most users to worry about. By way of illustration, a 1GB (1000MB) file takes around 11 minutes to upload at 12Mbps.
Virgin Media's top-end package is still very new, so Ofcom doesn't have any test figures for VIVID 350 yet. It seems reasonable to assume however that VIVID 350 will perform similarly to Virgin Media's other VIVID packages. According to Virgin, it offers an average download speed of 362Mbps, and upload speeds around 20Mbps.
Simply put, VIVID 350 is the only widely available Ultrafast broadband (broadband with speeds over 300Mbps). Most internet-based services have been designed with much lower speeds in mind. So VIVID 350 will easily handle any of the streaming, gaming or cloud services out there.
Even households of several people should have no trouble watching 4K or HD movies on their various devices while gaming or working at the same time. PC gamers can download a 30GB game from Steam in approximately 12 minutes.
With upload speeds advertised at 20Mbps, VIVID 350 offers the fastest available upload from the main providers. It's more than enough for responsive gaming. For home-workers, 20Mbps allows a 1GB file to upload in around seven minutes.
At the moment other providers can't compete VIVID 350. Virgin Media's 350Mbps package leaves other providers' not insubstantial 67Mbps speeds in the dust.
If you are wondering why Virgin Media has the fastest broadband, it's because Virgin has its own cable infrastructure which has received heavy investment in the last few years. All the other providers use BT's Openreach network to provide their services. As a consequence, the other providers are all limited to speeds Openreach can provide.
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