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UPD Virgin Media’s 200Mbps Package Drops to 130Mbps at Peak Times

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 (9:29 am) by Mark Jackson (Score 3,121)
virgin_media_streetworks

Cable operator Virgin Media has confirmed that customers of their recently launched Vivid 200Mbps broadband package (here) are seeing their average Internet download speeds at peak times drop to 130Mbps (October 2015 Data), which is below the previous top package tier of 152Mbps.

The new information came to light after the operator updated the statistics on their Broadband Speeds information page, which revealed that users of the 200Mbps package achieved an average speed over 24 hours of 170.05Mbps (Megabits per second) and 130.85Mbps during peak times (8pm-10pm).

By comparison customers of the operators 50Mbps package got an average of 51.81Mbps over 24 hours and 47.12Mbps at peak time, while those on the 100Mbps package received an average of 97.18Mbps over 24 hours and 83.93Mbps at peak times.

The data itself is also likely to be fairly reliable as it’s based off statistics gathered via Virgin Media’s own “Broadband Performance Panel“, which use customised monitoring routers powered by SamKnows and the typical speeds were also recorded with a standard Ethernet (LAN) cable rather than unreliable WiFi. Mind you we do not know how big the sample size was.

Some are likely to point to the results as evidence that Virgin Media may be struggling to deliver the necessary capacity to fuel their new top tier package, although it’s worth remembering that residential connections are generally “best efforts” style services where network capacity must be shared between many subscribers (i.e. your speeds can suffer at peak times when lots of people are all gobbling data at the same time). This is just one of the reasons why “up to” is so often prefixed before the service speed.

One of the main benefits of the shared capacity approach is of course that it helps to keep consumer broadband prices at an affordable level and customers would face dramatically higher bills if residential ISPs only offered connections with un-contended (dedicated) capacity, like a lot of high-end business grade connections.

Equally this just goes to show that sometimes paying extra for the fastest package doesn’t always deliver quite what you expect. It also raises a question mark over whether or not Virgin Media can supply a future 300Mbps tier to home users, assuming that’s the direction they take next year (so far this has only been confirmed for business customers).

UPDATE 25th Nov 2015

We are still awaiting an official line from Virgin Media, although it’s been suggested that some of the SamKnows panellists might have been using older kit and that this could be to blame for the slower readouts, which sounds plausible. However they weren’t talking about the router, but rather the use of Cat5e LAN cables, which raised a wry smile and look of slight puzzlement from my end.

Not that Cat5e cables don’t suffer from some smaller problems caused by electronic or other interference, but.. well we’ll wait for the official statement.

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33 Responses
  1. Boosey

    At least there’s some honesty?

    The website does say “upto 200mb” but ideally you’d think there should be some promise around percentages of time during the day where the service would offer this.

    Alternatively, we should go to the server hosting model maybe, whereby you offer a minimum and maximum throughput?

  2. Steve Jones

    Surely not too much of an issue on a contended service. However, I’m suspicious of averages. What is often more important is the percentiles as I suspect not many people are adversely affected at the reported speed. What will matter more is (say) the speed the last 5 or 10 percent get.

    • Carl

      There’s anecdotal evidence that at least some of that lower 5-10% are receiving single digits Mbps at peak periods.

  3. AndrewH

    I do feel terribly sorry for those whose service drops to 130Mbps.
    It must be really awful.
    Only being able to stream four 4K video streams at once must be terrible. Like living in a cave or something.
    Not like my 1.7Mbps. Oh no,… that’s rock solid all the time.
    Never drops. I can’t do anything so can never be disappointed.
    Result!
    : )

    • Chris C

      Its an average, what it probably means is that most people still get full speed e.g. 80%, and there will be people probably with heavy congestion pushing the average down.

      My experience of virgin media was that light acceptable congestion typically didn’t happen, it was either full speed or heavily congested.

  4. Well they call ‘up to’ 152 Mbps ‘ultrafast’ – while ultrafast has always referred to 1 Gbps – so cognitive dissonance isn’t something new at Virgin Media.

    Comes down to the theory I suppose – in theory DOCSIS 3, G.Fast and LTE-A can get 1 Gbps, so are ‘ultrafast – capable’

    But in practice, only FTTH and Docsis 3.1 actually offer 1 Gbps to all customers – they’re ‘true-ultrafast’.

    • Actually so far as I can remember “ultrafast” has generally tended to mean speeds of 100Mbps+, although there is no firmly agreed definition.

    • TheManStan

      Umm… no… you have to the capacity even with FTTH and DOCSIS 3.1.

      B4RN for example has 2 x 10 Gbps connections, one tier 1 ISP and the other peered. This is split amongst all their customers, which is well over a 1000 now.

      They have a 1 Gpbs capable network, but it is still contended so not all customers are able to get 1 Gbps all the time.

    • New_Londoner

      Couldn’t resist looking at BreakupBT’s website. It appears that the site has benefited from a similar degree of rigorous fact checking as the comments posted here. 😉

    • GNewton

      @New_Londoner: This was discussed in more detail in a previous ISPReview forum thread, see e.g. http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/11/advocates-of-fibre-optic-broadband-hail-gimme-fibre-day-2015.html#comment-160718

      The fact is that BT is in a big mess, and needs to be sorted out, one way or the other. While Virgin Media may be struggling with its package drop from 200Mbps to 130Mbps, which needs to be resolved, there is no VDSL package offered by BT which comes even close to 130Mbps, let alone 200Mbps.

    • New_Londoner

      @GNewton
      I don’t believe I passed comment on the Virgin offering, nor indeed any from BT.

      Since you mention it though, you’re right that BT currently caps its VDSL products at 80Mbps even though VDSL can support higher speeds (200Mbps with Profile 30). It does of course offer faster broadband services using FTTP and is trialling 300Mbps+ with G.Fast.

    • Steve Jones

      You are not going to see BT exploiting the full potential speed of VDSL for two reasons. Firstly the ANFP dictates the use of “power notching” and power roll-off at lower frequencies so it can co-exists with exchange based ADSL (the PSD varies according to cabinet distance from the exchange – cabinets further from the exchange are able to exploit more of the ADSL frequencies). Secondly BT are not exploiting the full bandwidth available under VDSL2 as to do so would compromise G.FAST.

      So a lot of this comes down to managing the spectrum on the network. If OR could run “cabinet only” services then more could be achieved, but as that would conflict with LLU is simply won’t happen.

    • Ignition

      ‘Ultrafast’ has always referred to >=100Mb.
      >=500Mb is the realm of ‘hyperfast’.

      I hope your website is more accurate than this post.

    • Ignition

      ‘Comes down to the theory I suppose – in theory DOCSIS 3, G.Fast and LTE-A can get 1 Gbps, so are ‘ultrafast – capable’

      But in practice, only FTTH and Docsis 3.1 actually offer 1 Gbps to all customers – they’re ‘true-ultrafast’.’

      Doesn’t inspire confidence. DOCSIS 3.1 shares bandwidth just as 3.0 does, and neither are distance limited as long as the networks are properly configured. Suddenlink in the USA are delivering 1Gb services over 3.0 right now, in production.

      All PON FTTP services are contended at the splitter, and all FTTP service are contended on the backhaul from the switch / OLT.

      Could’ve perhaps seen your point had you not differentiated between DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1. Both can do a gigabit, both also cannot, depending on how much spectrum is allocated to them.

  5. “ultrafast has always referred to 1 Gbps”

    good luck with that one! 🙂

  6. MikeW

    “Some are likely to point to the results as evidence that Virgin Media may be struggling to deliver the necessary capacity to fuel their new top tier package”

    Actually, it looks more like VM are struggling to deliver capacity for the lower tiers. The fact that contention is hitting the bottom tier, where most of their subscribers sit, has got to be more worrying.

    I can’t find previous results for this “broadband performance panel”, but I don’t recall seeing much slowdown of the bottom tier.

    • Mark

      “Actually, it looks more like VM are struggling to deliver capacity for the lower tiers. The fact that contention is hitting the bottom tier, where most of their subscribers sit, has got to be more worrying.”

      Where are you getting that from?

      “I can’t find previous results for this “broadband performance panel”, but I don’t recall seeing much slowdown of the bottom tier.”

      I assume they mean this http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/02/ofcom-average-uk-home-broadband-speeds-slowly-reach-23mbps.html
      As that is testing via the samknows devices as mentioned.

      I can not see any contention issues looking at that in fact speed wise VM come off better on every package than FTTC sellers. FTTC runs over 20% slower than its quoted max (or upto) speeds.

      Latency on all 3 virgin packages appears better than FTTC from all the others such as BT and Plusnet also. BTs and Plusnets 38Mb product if we are talking entry level superfast were the worst of the bunch. Sky 38Mb was the best only just beating VM 50Mb.

  7. FibreFred

    Maybe it should be re branded as 130Mbps with a 200 burst?

    • Mark

      Its an UPTO product no different to any other residential providers product. BT Infinity is UPTO 76Mb, should that be rebranded also to reflect typical peak time speeds? If so then its a 50-60Mb product for most at best.

    • FibreFred

      I thought you would be straight on the defence deduction 🙂

      I would expect VM users to be pretty miffed at paying for a 200Mbps service that does not suffer with distance issues (big selling point) only to find 70Mbps shaved off during the times they most want to use it.

      Might as well drop to the lower package

    • Mark

      “I would expect VM users to be pretty miffed at paying for a 200Mbps service that does not suffer with distance issues (big selling point) only to find 70Mbps shaved off during the times they most want to use it.”

      1. Peak time and 8-10pm refers to peak traffic times not necessarily when most are using the internet. Feel free as just a quick example to count the amount of posts just in here conducted before 8pm and the amount after if you wish to argue that further and that “most need/use” it during 8-10pm.

      2. It as stated is an UPTO service always has been. It is not sold as 200Mb it is sold as UPTO 200Mb no different to BT or any other residential ISP.

      3. The story clearly mentions the typical average speed over 24 hours is 170.05Mb, that is only 15% slower that its theoretical Max.

      4. The drop to 130Mb is therefore not a 70Mb loss it is a 40Mb (170-40= 130Mb) loss which equates approx 23% decrease.

      5. BT Infinity is no different or better. Their 76Mb product during 24 hours of the same samknows testing runs at around 60Mb typical average speed over 24 hours. That is likewise a 22% loss of the quoted max speed. Things do not get any better during Peak 8-10pm hours either when you think “most want to use it”.

      6. This effectively means for 2 hours a day (8-10pm) on Virgin you could experience a 23% loss of the typical speed of the product. On BT you experience a 22% loss just in typical speed even before the 8-10pm period.

      “Might as well drop to the lower package”

      I agree but for different reasons, mainly the cost saving per Mb of actual achieved speed. The same if you work things out is the same for any FTTC product dropping to 38Mb over 76Mb and the typical 24 hour speed sees you paying about a 1/3 less per Mb of speed received. Apologies if any of the maths confuses yourself or others

    • FibreFred

      It’s advertised as a 200Mbps service a drop to 130 is a loss of 70.

      It’s not sold on average speed

    • Mike

      It is sold as upto 200 Mbps, there is no 70 Mbps “loss” as 200 Mbps was not even promised in the first place.

      It is no different to BT FTTC and that being upto 76 Mbps and people only getting 50Mbps.

      However if you wish to insist advertised speeds are what everyone should have then logic as Mark has tried to point out to you means…

      An advertised 200 Mbps Virgin product running at 130 Mbps equals a 35% loss

      A BT FTTC connection advertised as 76 Mbps running at say 50 Mbps (perfectly normal) also equates out to almost a 35% loss (all but 600 Kbs).

      I dunno what your issue is but being about to do simple sums and bashing anything which is not BT when it performs the same or better seems to be a fair chunk of it.

    • Mark

      We appear to have confused him with junior school mathematics. 😀

  8. Simon

    I’ve yet to receive the speed increase here. It was at the end of November, but checking yesterday it would seem that it’s been bumped to March. I’m still on 100, but about the best I can get is 70 (still plenty). However, uploads have been dropping to about 1, which isn’t good for Plex and travelling.

    I did read earlier (although can’t find where – I’ll look if you want), that Virgin has also announced a price increase for broadband next year. So in essence, they’re passing on the cost of the speed increase to the consumer even although a) at times it’s currently worse, and b) it’s the upload speeds that would be nice for a lot of people (and their marketing conveniently avoids). *

    * I say a lot of people, for most the uploads probably wouldn’t mean much but they’d notice quicker uploading of videos to Facebook, but then consequently the same people wouldn’t notice a download upgrade anyhow.

  9. Kev

    Strenge that they feel they need to show stats from Ofcom from Nov 2014!! :$

  10. Mike

    “Apologies if any of the maths confuses yourself or others”

    LOL easier Maths for and far shorter to point out this…

    BT typical speed on top 76 Mbps pacakage = 60 Mbps

    Virgin slowest speed on top 200 Mbps package
    at worst time when as he says “most use it” = 130 Mbps

    Virgin thus 2.16 times quicker at its most busy times (130/60=2.16 recurring).

    Enough said about performance i think 😀

    Agreed I am sure the normal users are mortified their service is 2.16 times quicker than their likely alternative BT offering 😉

    • FibreFred

      Are you still quoting yourself and agreeing with yourself?

      Article headline says 200Mbps drops to 130Mbps the difference will always be 70 wherever you put your goalposts

    • Mark

      “Article headline says 200Mbps drops to 130Mbps the difference will always be 70 wherever you put your goalposts”

      And the CONTENT of the story states…

      “This is just one of the reasons why “up to” is so often prefixed before the service speed.”

      So the only goalpost moving about an UPTO product seems to be coming from you who can not comprehend just like slow Infinity it is an UP TO product.

      Oh and you can cut out the accusations people that can count and read are the same individual, you will be amazed there is more than a single person on the planet that can count and read FULL content.

      You can get back to other stories to defend your average half the speed BT FTTC product dross now.

  11. Chris C

    No it isn’t reasonable, if the kit is to blame then off peak speeds would also be low.

  12. STOBBSIE

    All lies to mislead customers to think they will be getting a great deal ….head over to virgin forums and see that well over 60% of ther customers have huge problems regarding very slow speeds at peak times.
    they advertise as super fast broadband which is utter rubbish as i have for over 1 year now had speed drops from 109mbps until 3pm it drops to 1-5mbps due to over utilisation /over selling the service in the area and not upgrading there hardware to cope with new customers ….there customer support is the worst i have experienced in 15 years with repair dates and resolution dates that never come, i was told after 8 months of this poor service and promises of it being repaired that the new repair date was november which came and past ,now its july this year ..AVOID THIS COMPANY LIKE THE PLAGUE

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