Virgin Launches 200-Mbps DOCSIS 3.0 Pilot

The British are coming -- at 200 Megabits per second.

Virgin Media, the U.K.'s largest residential Internet service provider, has started a customer pilot to test 200-Mbps downstream speeds using next-generation DOCSIS 3.0 cable-modem technology.

The operator said it initiated a pilot last week in Ashford, Kent, in England and will expand the test to 100 "lead adopters," who will have the chance to shape what the MSO is touting as "the most advanced broadband service in the U.K."

DOCSIS 3.0, which is capable of providing up to 300-Mbps connections or even more, is leading to a global high-speed game of one-upmanship among service providers.

In the U.S., the fastest announced residential broadband service to date is Cablevision Systems' 101-Mbps downstream service, which is scheduled to become available starting next week to homes in the operator's New York footprint.

In Japan, Liberty Global's J:Com offers 160-Mbps service using DOCSIS 3.0.

Virgin Media said it is working on the pilot with Cisco Systems, which is providing technology and collaborative technical support for the DOCSIS 3.0 network.

Cisco earlier this year said it is developing a cable modem that will use Broadcom's recently announced DOCSIS 3.0 silicon to bond together eight downstream channels to let cable providers deliver more than 300 Mbps.

In the 200-Mbps trials, Virgin Media said, it will test applications consumers may use in the future, including TV and broadband content in full high-definition and 3-D and connecting multiple Internet-ready devices such as video conferencing and home surveillance.

"With the only true next-generation network in the U.K., we're at the forefront of innovation and understanding when it comes to ultra-fast broadband services and the 200-Mbps pilot will give us further insight into how true ‘wideband' services might be used by consumers," Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett said in announcing the trial.

The cable company said it will run the pilot for at least six months before it analyzes the commercial viability of such ultra-fast services. A significant part of the pilot will also involve assessing related in-home technologies. For example, Virgin Media noted, wireless routers typically are unable to deliver throughput of speeds as high as 200 Mbps and computers require special tuning to be able handle such data rates.

Additionally, Virgin Media will consider opportunities to develop products and services aimed at businesses.