BSkyB has launched a 100 Gigabit optical network for Sky Broadband customers, the first optical network to hit that speed in the UK.

The network is aimed at allowing customers to rapidly download large files, including high definition videos.

BSkyB is aggressively improving its technology capabilities. Yesterday it announced a multimillion pound purchase of a stake in Zeebox, in a bid to be at the centre of customer searches to buy products seen on television.

The Sky Broadband unit, which has over three million customers, is understood to have poured hundreds of millions of pounds into upgrading its network as it strives to become the UK's largest internet service provider.

The new network was delivered by Alcatel-Lucent, and runs on what BSkyB described as "next generation" technology, which "takes advantage of unique Bell Labs silicon innovations to support data speeds of 100 Gigabits per second on each of the 88 wavelengths of an optical fibre".

The network is supported by dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) optical technology. It uses Alcatel-Lucent's 1626 Light Manager, enhanced with 100G next-generation coherent technology through the 1830 Photonic Service Switch (PSS).

The system was deployed on BSkyB's existing optical network, and the company said this enabled it to have "a relatively simple, quick and cost effective in-service network upgrade".

Mohamed Hammady, director at Sky Network Services, said: "Millions of Sky customers use our broadband network to enjoy video and other high bandwidth services." He added that the network was "free from any form of traffic management".

"We can do this because of the investment we make in our state-of-the-art, all-fibre core trunk network", he said.

The news comes as online movies service Netflix launches in the UK. Commentators have noted the potentially massive demand on networks from the growing popularity of online film streaming.