By Marcus Leach

Virgin Media (NASDAQ: VMED; LSE: VMED) has today (Wednesday) announced it is doubling the speeds of over four million of its broadband customers and will be boosting its top speed to 120Mb, strengthening the company’s position as the fastest broadband provider in the UK.

This ambitious initiative will help meet the growing demand for next generation broadband and marks a step change in the UK’s digital development.

With the mass roll-out starting in February 2012, the upgrade programme will continue over 18 months and is expected to be complete by mid 2013. Subscribers to Virgin Media’s current 10Mb, 20Mb, 30Mb and 50Mb services will see their speeds at least doubled, with 100Mb customers seeing a significant increase to 120Mb. These speeds will ensure customers get high quality access to the huge growth in new online services.

The widespread availability of superfast broadband supports the Government’s ambitions of ensuring that consumers have access to the best broadband services in Europe by 2015. Virgin Media’s upgrade programme forms part of its on-going commitment to delivering the fastest broadband speeds in the UK and will catapult Britain into the world’s broadband premier league.

“The burgeoning market for better connectivity has given us an opportunity to transform the digital experience of millions of our customers and to bring about a massive step change in the number of UK consumers who have access to exciting, next generation services," Virgin Media chief executive officer, Neil Berkett, said.

"Virgin Media has a track record of leading Britain’s digital development and this major initiative will meet the growing demand for faster broadband as well as provide significantly more value to our customers.

"The internet has become an integral part of our social, work and family lives, so we think our customers are going to love this. As people are increasingly doing more online, and getting connected to the internet with lots of different devices, having a fast, reliable broadband service should not be a luxury. We want to make sure that consumers have access to the best value broadband service and that means a superfast connection.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said also welcome the news.

"I welcome this announcement from Virgin Media; it will provide a great boost for the economy and change the way many households, consumers and businesses use the internet. Rolling out superfast broadband across the country is a critical part of our plan to upgrade the UK’s infrastructure and build a new and smarter economy," he said.

120Mb broadband will allow users to download an entire music album in as little as 4.4 seconds and a High Definition movie in around 5 minutes; but the service will truly come into its own when several people are connected to the internet at home at the same time. Faster broadband gives users greater bandwidth to cope with the demands of increasing numbers of internet connected devices.

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