Virgin Media is to crank up the speed of the UK's cable broadband lines, doubling them from 10 to 20Mpbs (megabits per second). This will put cable broadband speeds much closer to the 24Mbps consumer ADSL services offered in selected locations.

Virgin Media will begin cranking up speeds from May. The speed hikes will, however, apply only to its top-end broadband service. To offset the cost, Virgin Media will increase the subscription cost of its XL service from £35 to £37 a month. Uploads speeds will be raised to 768Kbps and the service will remain uncapped.

While some ADSL providers have attempted to provide still faster speeds, in practice speeds much in excess of this aren't yet really viable. According to, most broadband customers currently enjoy connection rates of up to 10Mbps.

Cable customers have traditionally enjoyed faster speeds and better value broadband when bought as part of a bundle of services than their ADSL counterparts. With smaller ADSL broadband providers being eaten up by larger entities and their broadband services being turned into adjuncts to low-cost landline and mobile phone deals, bundled services a la cable providers of old seem to be the way the broadband market is going.

Despite offering low-cost or even 'free' broadband subscriptions as long as you sign up for a lengthy contract with at least one other service from your chosen provider, for many consumers ADSL broadband is now every bit as enticing a package as cable once was. It therefore seems to make sense for cable to get a speed hike and up its ante.

Ernie Cormier, chief commercial officer of Virgin Media, said: "We want to make entertainment and communications the simple and exciting world it should be, but our technology also means we can offer an ultra-fast broadband service that our competitors can't match."

Virgin Media offers both ADSL and cable broadband services, as Virgin already had a service prior to its buyout of NTL Telewest.

Having snapped up the merged NTL and Telewest cable broadband providers last year, which were the only cable companies in the UK, we can only assume Cormier's reference to its competitors is yet another dig at satellite TV and, latterly, broadband provider Sky.

Last month Virgin ended up in a still-to-be-resolved spat with Sky when the two failed to agree terms for Virgin to continue to air some of the satellite TV company's most popular shows, including long-running series Lost.

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