While the United States continues to lag in its roll out of faster Internet speeds, other countries are increasing theirs in ever greater leaps. The United Kingdom is trying to make sure that all residents have access to a minimum of 2 Mbps by 2012, but Virgin Media is planning to leap frog that by quite a bit, not just now, but for years to come.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Virgin Media, which currently offers speeds up to 50 Mbps, is preparing to roll out 100 Mbps to up to 12.6 million homes by early 2011. Virgin currently services 3.6 million homes, but there is always the possibility that people will be tempted to switch to them knowing that such speeds are lurking just outside their door, waiting for them to take advantage of it. Add in the fact that BT, the second biggest ISP (Internet Service Provider) in the UK is only now increasing to 40 Mbps, and you can see the temptation will be great.
This new 100 Mbps offering will be 24 times faster than the average 4.1 Mbps UK citizens currently have. If you aren’t familiar with just how fast this is, which most Americans aren’t, you could download a full album in five seconds, an hour-long TV show in about 30 seconds and an HD movie would take a little less than eight minutes.
The availability of 100 Mbps in the United States is sporadic at best, and a recent report (PDF link) from the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, only an estimated 72 – 75 million people having access to it. The largest concentration is around the upper east coast in the New York City to Boston corridor, with no real indication of when it may begin appearing in many other portions of the country.
FCC (Federal Communications Commission) Chairman Julius Genachoswki gave a speech (PDF link) on Feb. 16th wherein he gave hints that the impending National Broadband Plan that is due to be announced next month will call for 100 million homes to have access to 100 Mbps. Known as “100 Squared”, this initiative is considered “ambitious” by Chairman Genachoswki, but this is a plan that will still not cover the entire nation a decade from now.
Want to feel even worse about the state of speed in the USA? Virgin Media is testing 200 Mbps at the same time it is rolling out the 100 Mbps connections. Tests have been conducted in Kent since last May, and now further testing is being rolled out to Coventry. Virgin hopes to roll this out nationwide by 2012.
Sure you can point to Google prepping its test of 1 Gbps connections in the United States, but this is envisioned as a test, and not a national roll out. Hopefully it will spur some advancement by American providers, but seeing the lack of urgency they are currently displaying in even getting out fiber optic lines, I’m not exactly prepared to hold my breath.