Virgin Media has officially launched its 50 megabits per second broadband service in the UK.

Claiming to offer nearly nine times the average headline broadband speed in the UK, Virgin says the the launch of the 50Mb service is a "seismic leap forward" for UK broadband.

"Today marks a historic moment, for both Virgin Media and the UK. As the first ISP to roll out next-generation broadband access, our 50Mb service represents the dawning of a new era of high-speed services in the UK and is just the beginning of what we hope to offer our customers over the coming years", said Neil Berkett, Virgin Media's CEO.

"This service will transform the way people interact and entertain themselves online and will provide a broadband experience that is truly world class".

The 50Mb service will allow users to download a music album in as little as 11 seconds, a TV show in around one minute, a movie in 3.5 minutes and a high definition movie in around 15 minutes.

Virgin's 50MB package comes with a new DOCSIS3.0 modem, a wireless "N" router, free anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as unlimited downloads.

Virgin says a typical family will be able to get the new ultrafast service from £35 a month with a phone package available to 40% of Virgin's network by the end of the year. The standalone service will be £51 a month.