The home broadband speed race is intensifying, with new and existing customers of Virgin Media able to choose to receive speeds of up to 1Gbps from today. 

The upgrade will be available to nearly 98% of homes across the country passed by the telecom provider's network, a total of nearly one million. 

"We're not announcing plans or ambitions or focusing on limited areas," said Paul Higgins, Vice President of Commercial at Virgin Media. 

"Instead, from today, we're providing lightning fast broadband connectivity across the country on our gigabit network," he stated. 

The service will be available immediately to those who choose to pay to upgrade their existing service or connect to it for the first time. 

Today's move follows a recent investment of more than €1 billion in the Virgin Media network, which is primarily restricted to cities and large towns.  

Other broadband service providers, such as eir and Siro, have also been building out fibre networks across the country that offer speeds of up to 1Gbps.  

However, it is unclear yet to what extent 1Gbps services are being sought and subscribed to by consumers. 

Latest figures from the communications regulator Comreg show nearly 38% of broadband subscriptions were for products offering speeds of more than 100Mbps. 

However, it is not clear how many of those products offer 1Gbps speeds. 

Last week, the consortium rolling out the Government's National Broadband Plan, National Broadband Ireland, said the minimum download speed on its service would be three times faster than originally planned, at 500Mbps.  

National Broadband Ireland also said both business and residential users can also avail of a 1Gbps product via internet service providers once the network is live.

Virgin Media said there was strong demand for its 500Mbps service when it was launched and it anticipates something similar for the new offering, particularly given the increase in remote working due to Covid-19.  

Paul Higgins said data usage on the Virgin Media network had risen 40% since coronavirus restrictions came into place in March. 

The cost of the 1Gbps service for existing customers will be €85 a month on a 12-month contract, with new customers set to pay €60 a month for the first six months.

Existing customers will require a new "V2" router to access the services, but this will be provided for free once a customer has signed up.  

There are no other installation or set up costs, once a customer chooses the self-install option. 

The service will also be available as part of a triple-play bundle. 

Daragh Cassidy of welcomed the development, but questioned whether the pricing was possibly too high.

He also cautioned consumers to check whether their equipment could handle 1Gbps speeds before taking the plunge.

"It's important people don’t pay top money for a broadband speed they can’t actually reach," he said.

"Older laptops and computers often can’t reach speeds anywhere near as fast as 1Gbps while if your device is infected with a virus or malware, this will significantly slow down the speed of your connection too no matter what plan you’re on. WI-Fi connections will always be slightly slower than a wired connection too."