Virgin to hike broadband prices after doubling speed

Updated: 

APAP

Virgin Media is putting up the price of its broadband packages - three months after saying it would double customers' speeds for free.

And today, BT, Britain's biggest broadband retailer with over 6m customers, announced it would roll out "ultra-fast" broadband on demand to homes and businesses next year. It will also start doubling standard residential broadband speeds from up to 40Mbps (megabits per second) to up to 80Mbps this spring.

But this is far below Virgin's new top speed of 120Mbps, from 100Mbps. However from next year, ultra-fast broadband of up to 330Mbps will be available to BT customers. This is likely to appeal to small and medium sized businesses that need to send and receive large amounts of data.

Virgin is beating BT in the speed race, according to an Ofcom report that showed overall residential speeds had risen by 22% last year. Of 13 internet service providers reviewed by the watchdog, Virgin's 'up to 50Mbps' offering had the highest average download speeds of around 49Mbps.

BT's optic-fibre product, Infinity, achieved average download speeds of 36Mbps (although it achieved the highest average upload speeds of 8.8Mbps).

ISP's speed claims have been attacked as misleading, and new rules mean speed claims need to be achievable by at least 10% of the relevant customer base.

Back to Virgin. At the start of the year, the cable giant said it would double the speed of its broadband service for more than 4 million customers. The upgrade starts this month. At the time, the company said most customers would not have to pay for the changes. However, it has now emerged that customers will face price rises averaging more than £25 a year, the Guardian reported.

The price of the most popular (large) broadband package will go up by £1 a month. Some call charges are also becoming dearer. Large Broadband bought on its own (without line rental) is going up by £1.50 a month to £22.50 from 1 April.

Other companies have also upped their prices in recent months, including BT, Sky, Talk Talk, O2, Vodafone and Orange.

A Virgin Media spokesperson told the Guardian: "As part of our ongoing review of services, we're making some changes to our cable pricing from April. On average, customers will see an increase of around £2.68 per month.

"However as part of our review, we've also managed to provide some customer savings and frozen prices such as our phone line rental. We will be proactively contacting existing customers in the coming weeks to make sure that they are on the best value package for them."

He pointed out that those who want to save money can move to a lower broadband tier which will eventually be upgraded at no extra cost.

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