Virgin Media which delivers its TV services via cable, is currently offering 10Mbits/sec, is promising 20Mbits/sec service from this May, and its engineers are hinting at the possibility of 40Mbits/sec, or even 50Mbits/sec, by Christmas. Of course this sort of capability makes possible Virgin services like video on demand. You can order up a film and have it streamed to your TV with this sort of capability. By contrast, Sky’s so-called ‘video-on-demand’ service, based on ADSL, has to send its films to your set-top-box’s hard disc to be played back at a later date. So the Sky vs. Virgin battle is going to come down to DSL vs cable. It’s would cost BT a bomb to bring fibre close enough to the curb to make it economic to deliver tens of Mbits/sec via VDSL for the final few hundred yards to consumers’ homes. Will BT do it? Will Sky subsidise it? I doubt it. So the Richard vs Rupert battle to provide Quadplay (or Four-play) services to the home is going to come down to bandwidth. And it looks like Richard has more of it.
Sky vs. Virgin
The Sky vs Virgin battle, which surfaced last month with Sky withdrawing its news service and other programmes from Virgin’s TV channels, is taking on an intriguing new technical direction.