Virgin Media is Testing the 4K ready Internet of the future in Rural England

by on September 30, 2014

by Stephan Jukic – September 30th, 2014

Streaming 4K content is widely considered to be the likely means of Ultra HD movie and show delivery of the future and given that what 4K content is available today mostly arrives at viewers homes via broadband connection, the idea has a lot of validity.

However, one of the biggest issues still facing this Ultra HD future is the simple fact that most internet connections can’t yet manage the minimum of 15 to 20 Mbps in broadband connectivity needed to really make a 4K transmission work well.

This is where new Ultra High speed internet field tests like the one being done by Virgin Media in Cambridgeshire England offer a lot of hope not just for widespread 4K capable internet but even a more distant 8K transmission future.

The trial being done by Virgin will have the village of Papworth Everard connected to something called FTTP (fiber to the premises) broadband connectivity that offers a whopping 1 Gbps connection speed. 1 Gbps is a massive 1000 Mbps. For one thing, it’s almost 60 times faster than the current UK average connection speed of 17 Mbps and secondly, it’s enough connectivity to easily offer even uncompressed 4K video, or 8K video as well for that matter.

Virgin Media will be using a new technique named “narrow trenching” to connect the homes in the ultra-high speed internet trial and the benefit of the procedure is that it allows for rapid, easy and much cheaper deployment of new broadband connection systems over wide areas.

This offers hope for a not too distant explosion of web services that offer speeds somewhere close to those of the Virgin trial.

According to Paul Buttery, Virgin Media’s chief customer, networks and technology officer, “Virgin Media continues to push the boundaries of broadband, launching the UK’s first superfast service in 2008 and boosting Virgin Media homes yet again with 152 Mbps broadband launched this year.”

In other words, even the much more widely available high speed broadband offered by Virgin offers a connectivity speed that makes 4K content streaming very easy to manage.

The Virgin trial in Cambridgeshire will only be used on about 100 homes but given the rural setting and logistical and technical difficulties of 1Gbps service, these 100 homes are an impressive first experimental step. Whether the FTTP service will later be expanded to cover a much wider customer base still remains to be seen.

Currently, Virgin Media’s 100+Mbps cable internet connection service covers some 12 million UK homes and will theoretically soon be able to deliver 1Gbps+ service following an upgrade to its DOCSIS 3.1 standard. However, even the existing quality of the connectivity makes Great Britain a country ripe for wider diffusion of Ultra HD content.

Most 4K capable ultra-high speed broadband internet connections are delviered via fiberoptic cable

Most 4K capable ultra-high speed broadband internet connections are delviered via fiberoptic cable

The Virgin Media experiment mirrors similar and much broader efforts at Gigabit internet being done by Google and other major ISPs in the U.S. These American services are offering connectivity of several hundred Mbps to a gigabit in a number of cities.

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