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September 28, 2010

Virgin gives business Internet a speed boost

Big Red Internet offers dedicated, uncontended access

By Steve Evans

Virgin Media Business has launched a business Internet service that it says will offer customers "dedicated, fibre-based, uncontended" access at speeds up to 1Gbps.

Big Red Internet

Big Red Internet will be offered at two speeds: a 100Mbps service that will be pitched at customers currently using Virgin’s 10-30Mbps service and a 1Gbps line that will be aimed at those on a 60MB connection.

Virgin says that the service will help those companies that are currently seeing their Internet speeds affected by the sheer amount of traffic on the network. A dedicated business-only line will not be constrained by these factors, the company said.

"We have a network that is designed fundamentally around the millions of consumers we have, who use it generally in the evening," said Virgin Media Business MD Mark Heraghty. "The network is largely empty during the day and we want to leverage that. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?"

The service will be offered on a flat annual fee for a three-year contract, with the 100Mbps service costing £12,000 unmanaged and £13,000 with management. The 1Gbps access costs £22,000 unmanaged and £25,000 per year for the managed service. Management includes the installation and configuration of a router as well as network management provided by Virgin Media Business.

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Heraghty added that Big Red Internet is designed to, "offer customers more capacity than they will ever need", which raises the question of why a company would want to pay for a service they will never fully require. "If a company genuinely only want to use the same capacity they currently use, it’s probably not the package for them, it’s not a forced upgrade," he said. "But look at the increase in technology such as hard drives and throughput capacity of fibre-based networks. People will find a use for bandwidth if it’s properly priced. I believe we will see a huge take-up in this because we’re delivering huge value."

Available from today to directly connected customers only Big Red Internet will not be available through resellers or bandwidth aggregators, the company said. About 85% of the UK’s businesses will be able to access the service through Virgin’s existing network.

Virgin Media Business confirmed to CBR that it has already signed up a few customers through its small business network, which while not part of its target audience has been useful for testing the proposition, Heraghty said.

After rebranding its ntl:Telewest business arm as Virgin Media Business in February this year, Big Red Internet is the firm’s first proposition under the new brand. The first job, Heraghty said, was to improve customer service and public awareness of the brand.

He also said that company will be pushing into cloud computing, with Big Red Internet being described as a "fundamental enabler" of cloud services. This is something Heraghty told CBR when we spoke to him earlier in the year. "Most of our revenue comes from data services," he said, "so it’s natural for us to extend into this area. Everything that happens in the cloud is good for us because it means more data traffic on our network."

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