Virgin Media has launched 152MB fibre optic broadband
Virgin Media's new broadband service is UK's fastest, clocked at up to 152Mbps.Flickr Creative Commons

Virgin Media has launched a new broadband speed offering speeds of up to 152Mbps, making it the fastest internet service in the UK.

Existing customers will be able to have their current broadband speeds boosted for no additional cost - 30Mbps customers can boost to 50, 60Mbps customers to 100 and 120MB customers will be able to receive the new 152Mbps service.

According to Virgin Media, peak internet use by its customers has gone up by 55% in the last year and by almost 1,000% since the ISP started offering broadband internet in 2007.

Setting the pace for UK broadband

In order to have their existing broadband speeds boosted, Virgin Media customers need to let the company know that they want to have their speed increased. The company's fastest speeds are delivered through its fibre optic network, which is currently available to 12.5 million UK households.

Virgin Media will be rolling out the new speeds to one million customers by the end of March, after which the rest of customers' speeds will be boosted in further roll-outs through 2014.

Dana Hashem, a Virgin Media spokesperson told IBTimes UK: "More households are connecting multiple devices like iPads, smartphones and gaming consoles all at the same time and our fibre optic network is uniquely placed to meet the growing demand for superfast broadband. Our new top speed of 152Mbps will be twice as fast as BT Infinity and far ahead of others reliant on an old copper network, so we're continuing to raise consumer expectations and set the pace among our competitors."

New parental controls

Virgin Media has also launched a new parental controls software called Web Safe, which enables the account holder to restrict access to potentially age-inappropriate websites and works throughout the home.

Culture Secretary Maria Miller said: "Parents will now be able to make a simple choice to activate family friendly filters that will cover all devices connected to the family's home internet."

The new software comes with "Switched on Families", a new interactive guide that provides advice to parents on cyber bullying, inappropriate content and digital addiction, which has been developed together with online family advice guide The Parent Zone and security firm F-Secure.

Vicki Shotbolt, CEO and Founder of The Parent Zone, said: "Switched on Families puts Virgin Media ahead of the game - it's the best content I've seen in this space for a long time. Parenting in a digital age is a constantly evolving challenge. The invaluable advice on this site will help empower parents to figure out what works for their family and how to best support their kids as they grow up."

1.5Gbit possible in the future

Virgin Media's fibre broadband network can reach even higher speeds than 152MB, but the company will only upgrade the speeds when there is enough consumer demand for it.

In 2011, Virgin Media conducted a trial and succeeded in delivering internet broadband speeds 240 times faster than the national average. The trial, which was conducted in residential areas in London, succeeded in achieving upload and download speeds of up to 1.5Gbps.

Virgin Media's broadband network works by providing a fibre optic cable from the telephone exchange to your local cabinet on the street near your home. From the cabinet to your house however, the old copper cables are still being used.

This is known as Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) and is considered by many in the industry to be the most cost-effective method of providing fibre in Europe.