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Bugs as Virgin Media Upgrade TV Channels from MPEG2 to MPEG4 -UPDATE

Monday, January 29th, 2018 (3:44 pm) - Score 8,266
virgin media tv v6 stb

Customers of UK cable operator Virgin Media have noticed that their TV channels are finally being migrated from the old MPEG2 to newer MPEG4 (H.264) video standard, which is a subtle but still quite important change, albeit one that has created the odd small gremlin.

Unfortunately a fair few of Virgin Media’s older set-top-boxes don’t support MPEG4 and so the operator has tended to retain MPEG2 for certain channels on their network. However last week’s shift, which saw VM pledge to upgrade their customer base onto the newer V6 Boxat no extra cost” (here), was about more than just keeping their existing subscribers happy with a new toy.

At around the same time some customers began noticing that their TV channels had also been moved from MPEG2 to MPEG4. As we’ve discussed before (example), the adoption of newer video standards usually brings with it more efficient compression (i.e. you can fit more into the same storage space or bandwidth) and that frees up capacity for other things, such as higher quality video, faster broadband ISP speeds and better use of PVR storage.

Currently many subscribers don’t have the new V6 box yet and as a result VM still needs to retain MPEG2 alongside MPEG4 on some of their TV channels. Unfortunately some subscribers on various different VM boxes have noticed a few problems, which seem to be caused by this.

A few of the reported issues involve channels sometimes coming up without a picture (this can usually be fixed by flicking back and forth between channels) or the fast forward feature being too fast (here, here and here). Likewise a few VHD and V+HD customers claim that their HD TV channels have reverted to an 4:3 aspect ratio and refuse to change back, although we’re unsure whether this is a related bug.

A spokesman for Virgin Media told ISPreview.co.uk that they “completed the upgrade of our HD channels from MPEG2 to MPEG4 encoding last week (barring three regions of the ITV main channel that we will migrate later). Moving HD channels to MPEG4 is great news for customers as recordings take up less space on their boxes.”

The spokesperson also confirmed that VM are aware of the issue with channel switching and that the temporary fix, which we mentioned above, should resolve it (sadly there’s no word on when a complete fix may be implemented but we’ve asked again). Likewise we’re also unsure when SD channels will be migrated, although getting the “majority” to adopt a V6 box by the end of 2018 may offer some rough indication.

On the whole this is still a very positive development.

UPDATE 6:40pm

Virgin Media could not give an update on the MPEG4 upgrade status for their SD channels but we have been told that a firmware patch is being prepared to fix the channel switching issue, albeit without a firm release date. The operator noted that the volume of complaints had so far been low.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Virgin

    They try to stop all virgin media cardsharing just like what sky did few years ago

  2. hmmm

    H.264 old H.265 new improvement but still old

    • dave

      pretty sure that only the v6 box supports h265 so it will be a very long time until they can switch their channels to h265, they will just use it for uhd channels on the v6 box.

    • Mike

      HEVC/H.265 version 4 which the V^ box is capable of was approved on 22 December 22 2016, hardly old.

    • Phil

      Actually, AV1 is even better than h.265, but then again, it takes 1000x more processing power to encode …

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