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Virgin Media admits it 'fell short' in broadband speeds ahead of lashing from BBC's Watchdog

Anonymous Coward

Virgin Media customer here.

Apart from the odd drop out, I get a flawless 200mbps connection.

Mind you I swapped out the standard Super Hub for a Linksys.

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Happy

Re: Virgin Media customer here.

Same but my 200 regularly hits 220+ (steam, speed tests, torrents) during peak. And I'm using the hub...

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Re: Virgin Media customer here.

How do you measure the minimum?

The sync speed? The line speed? The real-world download speed?

All have problems, that make them subject to tampering. E.g. a user could just measure sync speed after chomping on the cable for a bit and then claim they didn't meet the minimum, so they have to give him cheaper bills. People will run speedtest.net and assume that's definitive (rather than affected by local wireless and other users on the same network, etc.).

I have a SamKnows box. It reports back average speeds throughout the day, and is used as one of those consumer metrics that people quote when they say Virgin are the fastest or whatever. Pretty much, I get what I pay for. Sometimes it drops. Then it comes back. And that box goes through a router of my own which goes through the SuperHub in modem mode. Pretty much I could tamper that to report what I like too, I just apply QoS to it.

There is no reliable way to measure it that isn't subject to user - or even ISP - tampering. What should happen, though? You pay for the portion of the connection available to you. If you only used an average of 30Mbps over peak periods, on a 100Mbps package, you only pay one third of the price. Don't even bother to measure on off-peak periods because it's rarely an issue that affects an ISP as the bandwidth is already there but not being used. That way you're still paying for what you get, slowing yourself down doesn't gain you any advantage, and you could even "volunteer" to have a 30Mbps day if you're short on cash, which will reduce the demand on the ISP. Or pay extra to get a 200Mbps day.

The problem is not "some people have crap connections". It's literally "you pay more per byte than other people elsewhere". You shouldn't be paying more per byte. But you can't magically give everyone a 200Mbps connection just because they want one.

There will come a time when ISP usage will be billed like all the other utilities. By the unit, and more expensive at peak periods. Then it doesn't hurt the people who WANT to download tons of shite, teaches people not to download tons of shite unnecessarily, and also allows those who get a crap connection to only pay a pittance to stay online because of that.

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Re: Virgin Media customer here.

I'm a 300Mb customer and only receiving on average 70Mb over the month (Also a SamKnows reporter). I say bring back the peak time throttling as I reckon it's when they ditched that things started to go down hill.I know throttling is everyones pet hate, but I would rather be throttled to 100Mb at peak times then play the gambling game of anywhere between 0 and 10 in the evenings.

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Facepalm

Re: Virgin Media customer here.

We were using a separate router, until we hit a bug with the (notso)Superhub which caused our connection to drop every few hours, so we're back with the (notso)Superhub, and it's 'quirks', like "Wifi passwords must contain exactly two numbers. One is too few. Three is too many, Four is right out" etc.

We seem to have a pretty good speed though, but it's hard to tell where a problem might be, if (eg) iPlayer is stuttering, is that the BBC's problem, or just the internet at large, or VM's network, or our connection to VM's network? Mostly it's just bloody fast though.

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Re: Virgin Media customer here.

On Virgin200 here and get 200 speed most of the time. Using the Superhub in modem mode and an ASUS router, the only problem I find is that the Superhub needs rebooting once in a while as it seems to slow down so added a timer to power it off/on at 4am every day.

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"Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

"Up to" speeds should be banned. Make them specify a minimum as well as a maximum with cash compensation for failure to reach the minimum and the market would shift in the consumers' favour.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

I find these "up to" claims particularly amusing on things like hair colouring products.

"Up to 100% grey coverage!"... O'rly!?

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Re: "Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

And there's the sales. Up to 50% off. Try finding anything (let alone much worth buying) at 50% off. Or 40 or 30% even.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

No, customers who are more than a given distance from an exchange or cabinet will just be refused service if you do that. The cost of providing service remains the same regardless of achievable speed. If you act to make some customers much less profitable than others, the market will decline to serve them.

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Re: "Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

If you act to make some customers much less profitable than others, the market will decline to serve them.

The market isn't monolithic, different parts have different business models. A friend of mine lives in a newly refurbished block of flats in Sheffield. ADSL into the block is pitiful, even though there's a fully equipped FTTC cabinet in the next door, derelict block. BT refused to move the cabinet or hook up to it, so they've just lost a lot of business to a company that's using line of sight microwave, giving speeds similar or better than FTTC at a slightly lower price. The market served them, even though one part of it declined.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: "Up to" may not go up to. News at 11

I don't know how that's relevant though. If 'upto' advertising is banned and pricing reduced for customers on lower speeds, the operators who provide services with speeds dependant on distance won't sell to customers they'll make less money from.

If the ADSL supplier at your friend's block decided to no longer sell service there, do you think your microwave provider is likely to put their prices up or down?

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Re: New???

I had a sustained period (Months) of getting severe packetloss and latency during peak times. Usable bandwidth varied from 15-40mbps on a 150mbps service during peak times.

Eventually I moved to A&A, who you can see are currently posting daily updates on their hunt for 0.05% packetloss on their talktalk backhaul. https://aastatus.net/apost.cgi?incident=2401

I have a more expensive and capped service as a result of the mood, but the connection is fast and stable

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Re: New???

I'd never heard of A&A but from their page their offerings are surprisingly honest.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: New???

I'd love to go to A&AA but the cost and cap would bankrupt me.

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Go

Re: New???

A&A? Yes, you get what you pay through the nose for...

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Facepalm

Re: New???

Complaining about the price of A&A ISP services is like complaining about the cost of bread, when horse manure is "free"...

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Re: A&A

It's not that bad - £50 a month gets you 1000GB bandwidth on ADSL - and that includes line rental (or £60 for VDSL) OK, so it's a little more than most other providers, but I'd rather sacrifice an Indian takeaway than be subjected to an Indian call centre!

They really are very good.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A&A

1000GB is 8Gbps. I don't believe anyone will sell you 8Gbps for £50 a month.

One of the circuits I buy is 10Gbps and I pay £50k per year for it.

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Des

I've been a long term VM customer and suffered no end of technical issues with their broadband service; I'm currently getting 70-80 mbps on a 200 mbps connection due to over utilisation in Bristol. Surely when they go to sell the service they should know when they will exceed available capacity? We reported our issue months ago and have been advised the fix is expected in October... I assume when they anticipate at least 50% of their customers will have left owing to their poor service.

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Unhappy

"Surely when they..sell the service they should know when they will exceed available capacity?"

Shock news.

All ISP's oversell their capacity.

Back in the dialup days they called it "contention"

There really isn't that much capacity to give all the possible users on a port all the possible bandwidth all the time. So it's shared. They gamble customers don't want 100% download speed 100% of the time and that user loads vary second by second, so customers won't notice. In principal higher cost services have lower contention.

The question is how much the ISP oversells it's capacity and in Vermin's case it looks like quite a lot.

Remember though the UK is not the US. 5 ISP's may make up 95% of the UK subscribers but there are about 400 ISP's out there.

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After months of poor service and angry 3 hour phone calls I dropped them and moved to BT. I consistently get the same service, even if it is "up to" less bandwidth. With virgin it was 0.8 Mbps at peak time and 80mbps at 3am on a Thursday. They tried to keep sending me new equipment even when I told them they were obviously over subscribed.

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Anonymous Coward

Being with VM since the days of the Blueyonder blue whale - and the proud owner of a SuperHub 3 - something happened at the end of February to change my rock solid 300 Mb to having dropouts to as low as 80Mb and occasionally as low as zero. I've got a Samknows box and have been part of VM's Samknows trial since it started last year. I've taken to rebooting the superhub, samknows box, raspberry pi flightradar reciever, what have you in the afternoons but it makes no difference.

Strangely enough the ookla speedtest beta still reports full speed (300 / 20) even when it's toiling. I don't use the VM DNS due to the, ahem, various sites block.

Can't all be due to peak time traffic / Stalk Stalk dropping a manhole cover down a cable pit / etc the dropouts happen at random and all the time.

Was promised the 350Mb trial a month ago nothing more on that yet.

Anon. For obvious reasons :/

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and the proud owner of a SuperHub 3 - something happened at the end of February to change my rock solid 300 Mb to having dropouts to as low as 80Mb and occasionally as low as zero

May be unrelated but could be due to the Puma 6 chipset being somewhat buggy.

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The Virgin sales people grossly exaggerate the speed that can be delivered

I went into my local (St Albans) Virgin shop last year and was offered a connection speed of 200 megabytes per second. I said that was unfeasibly large, and that they probably meant 200 megabits per second. The member of staff (who I later found was the manager that day) assured me I was incorrect and it was really 200 megabytes/s. I asked to see the literature and that said 200 Mb/s rather than 200 MB/s. When I explained that that confirmed it was 200 megabits/s, she said it was a printing mistake and it really was 200 megabytes/s. At this time several other colleagues of hers came round and confirmed it as 200 megabytes/s (though one did ask what the difference was between a bit and a byte).

I complained to Virgin, and they said they would train their staff better. However, this year I was stopped in the street by a Virgin salesperson and asked if I changed to Virgin I would get 200 megabytes/s.

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Re: The Virgin sales people grossly exaggerate the speed that can be delivered

"several other colleagues of hers came round and confirmed it as 200 megabytes/s"

You should have asked if they knew the difference between gallons and litres and would they be prepared to sell you 200 gallons of petrol for the price of 200 litres. That might at least get them thinking.

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I've been fortunate to not have too many issues with VM, I do have a Draytek router and their offering in modem mode though. Speed is generally ok with some (few) slow periods.

I do however have a VM contractor digging a trench up the pavement so predict an outage some time in the next few minutes..

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Rock and ..... place

I have a choice of 5mb ADSL (no hope of FTTC due to the street cabinet being uneconomically viable - because it's too small) or a over utilised Virgin Service.

Currently on ADSL, pondering over Virgin's new 50mb for £26 deal.

Yay

(I know others are in a much worse situation)

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Re: Rock and ..... place

I'm not entirely sure what "5mb" (millibits) would mean. Not even if it was supposed to be 5 millibits per second...

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Had just the same issues

In London I had a service which was supposed to be 100Mbit, even shortly to be upgraded to 150Mbit. The problem was that at peak times (the main time I wanted it), I couldn't stream, I could hardly get basic web pages. My lodger even ended up getting his own ADSL line installed, he was so fed up with it. This was an ongoing issue for more than a year. Finally, running speed checks I established that I did get full speed at certain times (like when engineers visited during the early daytime), but that it consistently dropped off as the afternoon went on - like when some get back from school and then others get back from work, until my 100Mbit was more like 1Mbit with high latencies and packet loss.

Confronted with information saying that day in, day out the service was good earlier in the day then unusable in the evening, they admitted not only was it down to the network being over capacity, not only was it going to be at least months before it was sorted out, but they had known my specific installation had issues for more than 8 months but hadn't acknowledged it to me.

Initially they offered just a discount on the broadband for the next few months because the service would be more limited, but I argued that when they knew there was an ongoing issue they wouldn't be able to fix, they should have let me know and given me the option of cancelling my contract (as I would definitely have switched had I known). They had to admit they failed on this (which is something they're obliged to do) and therefore offered money back on the service going back to that date.

Since I'd upgraded to the Superhub 2 to try to resolve these problems and had similar issues going back a few years, this wasn't necessarily a full compensation for the issues, but it took a lot of pushing to get them to even provide any refund for service not provided to date, and it really shouldn't have.

Their representatives stated that it affects people differently, some may not notice issues. I call shenanigans on that - some may not realise they aren't getting the service that they're paying for, but everybody in my area would have been affected - just because they're not technically literate enough to identify and complain about an issue didn't mean there wasn't a fault that Virgin should have been compensating their customers for. They should be forced to contact ALL customers in affected areas and offer appropriate compensation (e.g. if they only provided 10% of the advertised speed at peak times, consistently, they should be refunding 90% of the broadband charges for the period, automatically). Only with them held to account to refund the majority of affected customers would it remove the incentive to keep treating customers in such a disrespectful and dishonest manner.

Aside from this, they don't even let existing customers get the prices advertised online - look for the best bundle deal as an existing customer, ignore the introductory discount, and ask them to provide the ongoing price, and at least in some cases they'll say that's not available. I had that last Christmas when they refused to honour their advertised pricing for a full TV bundle, wanting to charge £15/month more than the ongoing price listed because I was an existing customer, and refusing to provide full 'existing customer' pricing so I could compare packages for myself. So it's not just on the broadband that they're shady...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Had just the same issues

It's disappointing that the business practices haven't changed from old cable TV companies in the 90s.

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Re: Had just the same issues

Disappointing, yes; surprising, not even slightly.

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Re: Had just the same issues

VM have a long and dishonourable history of not admitting when there is a problem. In fact, not even telling their own front line staff, a kind of new slant on plausible deniability - the people you speak to genuinely don't know there's a problem unless they find out by accident and tell the users, which is how I was able to discover about a serious outage in my area after previous staff had all been doing the old turn it off and on again boll**ks.

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You get what you pay for

Virgin, Sky, Talk Talk, BT and Plusnet are cheap because so is their service. Pay a bit extra for a decent ISP and you won't experience these issues. The only time I have ever experienced a slow down at peak times is when using someone else's internet that came from one of the so called big 5. I usually get higher speeds than the headline up to speed for my account.

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Re: You get what you pay for

Virgin, Sky, Talk Talk, BT and Plusnet are cheap because...

At £45 (or thereabouts) per month for 52 Mb/s I wouldn't describe BT as exactly cheap; I declined their offer of 76 Mb/s for about £4 more at the time of contract renewal. 52 Mb/s (or whatever speed it is actually running at) seems to meet my / our needs perfectly well.

Not lying awake at night fretting over a missing few Mb/s or so of bandwidth is a delightful experience.

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Re: You get what you pay for

Nothing wrong with PlusNet's service. Just don't expect POP3/TLS.

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Re: You get what you pay for

That's actually “up to” 55Mb/s and “up to” 80Mb/s respectively. Blame stupid OFCOM rules for that.

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Go

Re: You get what you pay for

An important difference between the two product isn't just the download speed, but the upload speed. It's only 9Mb/s for the 55Mb/s product, but 19Mb/s for the 76Mb/s one. That makes a lot off difference when doing things such as uploading to the cloud, RDPing in to your computers at home, or running your own VPN so your mobile devices aren't being snooped upon when using public WiFi.

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Anonymous Coward

In the past, I'm now out of a VM area, I had little technical trouble but loads of admin issues with VM. Like VM failing to withdraw money from my account and charging me for it despite there being no change to my details. I found that once there is an account issue it never ends with them and they only stop once you open a new account as I did when I moved address.

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Anonymous Coward

No all VM's fault

Here in sunny Surrey, NTL dug up the streets and laid some wonky co-ax decades ago. This is the crap that VM has to deliver 100Mb over today. As there are 30+ houses served by the one bit of co-ax this is impossible so short of digging up the road again and laying some er.... Fibre and then laying that into peoples homes there is SFA chance of any VM customer getting decent speeds between 14:00 and 23:59.

I moved from VM to another ISP that uses Fibre to the green box up the street. At the moment only one other home is connected to Fibre so 78Mbit download is there pretty well 24/7

So VM marketing wonks, Yes we can theorteically get 100mbits down but in reality 10-15 is the norm. So get off your far arses and upgrade the final half mile and you will have a load of happy customers.

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happy customers

The problem is that they are interested in the highest net income from paying customers, not maximising the number of happy customers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No all VM's fault

So get off your far arses and upgrade the final half mile and you will have a load of happy customers.

Suggest you read up how DOCSIS works, and you will find out that (unlike FTTC), the final half-mile is not the issue with the VM service.

That "dodgy coax" will deliver 1Gbps downstream, if there's sufficient of the right kit behind it. And all the TV you could want, at the same time.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No all VM's fault

"So get off your far arses and upgrade the final half mile and you will have a load of happy customers."

It never works that way. Upgrade the final half mile and you'll find that maybe a couple of customers will upgrade, most won't, and you're left with a Capex bill you have no new revenue to cover. Do that enough times and the bank will take your business from you.

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Virgin are so variable. I've been with them a few years now, and I get more of the up to speed than I did with ADSL - but don't normally test it in the evening (but never noticed serious streaming problems).

I did have a long period where it would drop out a few times each week - often mid morning: noticeable when I was working at home. It got so bad (and customer support were the usual chocolate teapot of usefulness) that I got a VDSL line from someone else and a failover/sharing router - Linksys LRT224. That has worked nicely to smooth out any problems - and as far as I can tell the VDSL has been stable (and quick ~75/19).

More recently (last six months) Virgin finally rolled out the 200Mb service in my area (after years of missed promises) and some initial problem I've checked and I've had one outage of 9 minutes since the end of March on the Virgin line, which I'm not going to complain about for consumer grade product. Don't check the other one but the router says connected for 9 days - so something happened.

I guess because the Virgin network is put together from varying quality bits and pieces they bought from others they are going to vary around the country. [Not apologising for them - they are scum on pricing for existing customers, not rolling out new tech until a competitor gets close, (lack of) customer service, marketing spam etc. etc. - but they are generally predictable scum working with shit infrastructure that customers wont pay to have improved.]

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Just over a year ago I took the opportunity to move to a tiny Caribbean island, population less than 100,000, and also from a fairly new build flat in Leeds with Virgin Media coax to an apartment of similar age with FTTP.

Granted I'm paying about 3 times the price for a 25Mb/s connection (about £125 after Brexit induced Moneygeddon) but that is a minimum, I regularly get speeds 10-30% higher and the connection is rock solid at all times of the day.

The box was installed by a couple of local chaps who impressively asked me to set my own SSID and password rather than leaving the default, and commented on Huddersfield Town's shockingly good performance recently, a far cry from the surly VM chap who was in and out as fast as humanly possible.

This confirms my theory that all the big UK ISPs are giving piss-poor performance to keeps costs artificially low and not even attempting anything like a solid service.

The weather is nice here too.

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"...I took the opportunity to move to a tiny Caribbean island...The weather is nice here too."

Bastard!

That is all.

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Try Transylavnia..

I've just checked my nominally 50Mbit connection via our local cable TV company (rural Transylvania). According to http://beta.speedtest.net, I'm getting 60Mbit download and 30Mbit upload.

The Older ISP (wireless based) is just being taken over humungous cable company who are offering 300Mbit FTTH for about £3.50 / month. Not sure what the installation fee is. The other problem is that my main router only has only 100Mbit ports... It looks like the router upgrade is going to cost more than a year of internet.

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Okay peak time is about now eh? 8pm?

speedtest.net (other ones are available) is saying 214.7 down 12.4 up while I streaming video (3 tests, 3rd was 210/12.4). I'll take that for up to 200 :P

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That apology in full...

Mistakes were made.

Lessons will be learned.

We will now place a small star (*) next to any speed numbers in our adverts.

We won't explain what the star means, anywhere.

But if you assume its meaning is closer to '<' than to '*', you'd probably not be far wrong.

Our network won't be changing.

For the better, anyway.

Unlike our management grade pay.

Virgin - we'll f**k you come what may (tm)(r)(c)

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When I worked for ATT any thing less then 80% of contracted speed is considered a problem. Any thing less then 75% allowed you to get out of the contract.

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