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Virgin Media - Many Wi-Fi Routers Can't Handle 50Mbps
By: MarkJ - 26 March, 2008 (9:19 AM)

Virgin Media's Director of Technical Strategy, Kevin Baughan, has warned that many 802.11 based home Wi-Fi networks may be unable to handle the operators forthcoming 'up to' 50Mbps cable broadband products.

Trials of the new service revealed that many Wi-Fi routers couldn't handle the speeds. Curiously the problem even raised its head when routers were switched to a wired Ethernet connection mode. Some PC's also had problems coping and needed to be reset:

Quote from Connected Home: "We don't want to be called up [at the customer care centre] too often," he pointed out. Referring to the router and PC issues, he said: "There are lots of opportunities for people to complain about the service so as we look at our roadmap, we have to understand that as speeds increase, it is quite demanding to make sure all the pieces in the home can function at those speeds."

"50Mbps is not so much about speed but the fact that speed no longer matters for people," Baughan said, summing up the value-add Virgin Media can bring to the UK market with the new technology. "The biggest lesson from the trial is that the access network stops being a constraint. It lets people get on with what they want to do; it doesn't stop people from doing anything any more."

Unfortunately Virgin does not reveal which routers were affected, although most consumers will probably be using older 11/22Mbps (802.11b) or 54Mbps (802.11g) based hardware. Typically such routers usually deliver speeds far slower than the advertised rate due to environmental (walls) and technical (interference) hindrances.

Naturally Virgin Media is trying to drum up some good publicity ahead of its product launch, yet it should be careful not to over-hype. The difference between a trial and deploying the product to several million potential customers can sometimes be a lot of network congestion (slower speeds) and angry users.

Still, the message appears to be that customers seeking to get 50Mbps may need to stump up extra cash for new hardware. Service prices have yet to be determined, although trials were known to be charged in the region of 50 per month, which is too expensive for most consumers.

Baughan believes that 9m UK homes passed by Virgin Media in the UK will be able to access 50Mbps this year, rising to 12.5m by 2009.

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