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Virgin Media Average Broadband Speeds Showing Improvement

Monday, February 19th, 2018 (11:03 am) - Score 14,769

Cable ISP Virgin Media looks to be in a good shape ahead of the forthcoming change in UK advertising rules. The provider has published a monthly update that reveals the “average” speeds of their broadband packages and in most cases they’re now delivering faster than the headline rate.

At present the existing guidance, which has been in place since 2012, requires that any headline broadband speed being promoted by an ISP must be achievable by at least 10% of their users (i.e. the fastest 10% of subscribers) and these figures should be preceded by an “up to” qualifier.

Last year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced that it intended to change this in the hope of making broadband speeds more representative (full details), which they will do from 23rd May 2018 by requiring all ISPs to advertise “average” speeds (i.e. a median download speed measured at peak [busy] time) for their packages.

The change represents bad news for copper line ADSL and hybrid fibre FTTC (VDSL2 / G.fast) based products because it will help to highlight the negative performance impact caused by issues such as interference over longer copper lines. However, in theory, the change should spell good news for pure fibre optic (FTTH/P) and cable (hybrid fibre coax) operators that often deliver closer or above their advertised rates.

Now take a look at the latest January 2018 update from Virgin Media, which highlights a good improvement over the same results from January 2017. For example, one year ago Virgin’s average download speed at peak time for their 50Mbps tier was 45.94Mbps (now 51.84Mbps), while their 100Mbps package delivered 87.23Mbps (now 101.25Mbps) and 200Mbps produced just 157.58Mbps (now 192.03Mbps).

virgin media uk jan 2018 average broadband speeds

It was of course expected that Virgin would do well here and in fact they often deliver slightly faster speeds than their headline rate. On top of that Virgin has done a commendable job of including upload speeds in their table, although sadly like most of the major ISPs they still don’t promote these on their product pages.

A Virgin Media Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“Virgin Media continues to invest in network upgrades to make sure our customers get the fastest widely-available broadband speeds throughout the day – and we’re about to get even faster with the upcoming launch of 350Mbps. With the majority of our customers now getting speeds at peak times above those advertised, this investment is clearly making a difference.”

The results adopt the same data gathering method as Ofcom use for their annual fixed speeds report, which means that an unspecified number of Virgin’s subscribers install modified routers (SamKnows) that automatically test the connection in order to report more accurate results.

The only problem with this approach is that we don’t know the size or distribution of their testing base but due to the cost it’s unlikely to be large (e.g. Ofcom only have c.2,000 for most of the UK). Likewise we don’t know how Virgin selected their testers and whether it includes any homes with faulty or very slow lines, which might otherwise drag down the results. As always, take with a pinch of salt.

By comparison Thinkbroadband’s data for the same month, which covers a significantly larger sample size, suggested that Virgin Media’s 100Mbps service delivered a median average of 43.7Mbps, while 200Mbps delivered 82.3Mbps and their 300Mbps tier delivered 128.9Mbps. But remember that speedtest based results like this can easily be negatively hit by other big factors, such as slow WiFi and LAN congestion etc.

In practice what all of this means is that the cable operator will probably continue to advertise the same headline download rates as they do today because their own data now largely vindicates those.

So far the only ISP to actually adopt average speeds into their advertising has been Sky Broadband (Sky’s up to 17Mbps [ADSL] service got an “average” of 11Mbps and their up to 76Mbps [FTTC] became 57Mbps etc.) but others will soon follow.

NOTE: An “average” like this might be considered an improvement on the old 10% rule but it will still have winners and losers, with some people getting faster speeds and others receiving something slower.

Leave a Comment
47 Responses
  1. chrisp says:

    This type of average will just serve to cause more confusion. I see the stick OFCOM are trying to wield, encouraging ISP’s to improve their service to make their numbers bigger in order to appear better, but there are a lot of us who don’t need 100mbs plus and would be happy on 30mbs plus but will be dissuaded from going with popular quality DSL providers because their numbers may look worse than they really are as they support those still on slower lines.

    A better metric would be to show what percentage of the negotiated rate can be used for Internet access. I.E negotiate at 25mbs and able to deliver 25mbs of Internet, rather negitaed at 200mbs and only deliver 85mbs.

    I noticed a huge improvement in my bandwidth when i set up a think broadband monitor. it stopped working ages ago and when working from home the other week(ethernet cabled to my VM router) I noticed things where slow but sped up hugely after a speed test. Its funny how often on VM things get faster after a speed test.

    1. AnotherTim says:

      If all ISP’s are forced to advertise their average rather than their fastest speeds I expect that more will drop simply support for customers that can’t get fast speeds – iot is the easiest way to improve the average speed!. Many areas that are not FTTC or even LLU enabled already struggle to find an ISP – for example in my area Virgin, TalkTalk, Sky, Vodaphone and many already others won’t provide any broadband. This will only get worse.

    2. Mike says:

      OFCOM is simply trying to cover over failed government policy that put us in the current undesirable position, if average speed advertisements don’t “fix it” then they’ll think up some other stupid policy and force ISP’s to do it.

      What’s important isn’t average speeds but the maximum speed available at any property whether thats by VM/BT/Hyperoptic etc. If people choose to pay less and get a poorer service they should have the right to do that.

  2. Rob says:

    As far my own personal experience with virgin goes it’s not the connection that’s the problem. It’s their proprietary equipment that is the let down.

    If you don’t care about gaming or anything that doesn’t rely on latency then VM are very good if you can get them in your area.

    1. CarlT says:

      Which proprietary equipment, Rob? Do you mean the Superhub?

      Nothing proprietary about that beast. It’s an off the shelf bit of kit, specifically an Arris TG2492 with some VM software running over the top of the firmware, in a customised plastic shell.

      The problems are universal across everyone using that hardware and, indeed, everything using the Intel Puma 6 chipset 🙁

    2. Rob says:

      Proprietary in the sense that you’re stuck using their own supplied equipment with no exceptions.

      Sure you can put it in modem mode and attach your own router but that does absolutely nothing to fix the Hub 3’s major (and quite shocking) design flaw.

      If VM let you use your own cable modem that wasn’t dependent on the Puma 6 they’d be awesome. I’d happily throw my money at Virgin if I could play online games without the disgusting amount of lag the Puma 6 dishes out.

      Had to leave for BT (signed up today actually) and I’m sure their router is a steaming pile too but 1) It doesn’t have the Puma 6 bs and 2) you can buy your own, more capable router if needs be.

    3. Mike says:

      Latency issue has been fixed with latest firmware reports a couple of days ago.

    4. CarlT says:

      Sadly it hasn’t. Just worked around for ICMP traffic only.

    5. chrisp says:

      yet another metric made to look better then, i’m sure the favourable ping latency values will feature in a lot of blogs, comments etc but the reality is no improvement for those that actually want low latency. i guess its like advertising your product as fibre when its connection to the home is via a copper coax cable.

    6. Oleg says:

      Better to call yourself fibre except for a few metres of coax than call yourself fibre when it terminates to go over twisted pair sometimes hundreds of metres away.

    7. Mike says:

      TCP / UDP also seems better here, though for me it was fine anyway.

  3. John says:

    The Thinkbroadband data will be more representative and even that is skewed by the fact people are ordering 300Mb and being given the 350Mb package instead (look on cableforums if you want proof). Averages are pointless.

    Is there any reason why you can’t just stop advertising speeds? Instead require address/phone number to display a list of available speed teers which are based on actual throughput. Minimum peak time speed where applicable could also be displayed.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      “Is there any reason why you can’t just stop advertising speeds?”

      The thing is we have a market that is full of different technologies and capabilities, which can vary from location to location. Speed is a deeply imperfect method but if you stopped advertising it then you create even more confusion for consumers (how can they easily tell the difference between a 1Gbps and a 1Mbps package, without conducting checks at every single ISP etc.?).

      Speed is a key differentiator, so by setting a general rule the ASA are trying to balance the representation to manage consumer expectations, albeit without losing that differentiator. People also understand the linear measurement of speed far better than they do the underlying technologies.

    2. Baldrickk says:

      Oh no. The thinkbroadband data is not necessarily going to be representative.

      What devices are going to be the most common through which the service is accessed?
      Even if it is not mobile/tablets, they’ll be a large number.

      Let’s take a look at some results shall we?

      #1 Samsung Galaxy S7 802.11n (5Ghz) connection, no other network traffic, same room as router (direct line of sight):
      https://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/1519071071361740055
      Sustained single thread download of 17.7Mb/s
      Sustained multithread download of 84Mb/s

      #2 PC, same network, but two floors away and a tiled bathroom between, also connected via Wi-Fi (no wired ethernet)
      https://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/
      1519071323686959555
      Sustained single thread download of 75.8Mb/s (4.2× faster than phone)
      Sustained multithread download of 107.1Mb/s
      (Considering I’m on 100Mb/s that’s a pretty good score, beating the advertised speed, while the phone couldn’t manage it)

      So choice of device used definitely impacts the result.

      And if I use an alternative service, for example https://speedof.me on my PC, what is the result?
      https://speedof.me/show.php?img=180219203621.png
      Sustained download of 120.5Mb/s

      If the speedtest site can’t always saturate the link for whatever reason, that’s also going to affect the results

    3. Mike says:

      “The Thinkbroadband data will be more representative”

      Except that includes people testing over wireless and other devices like cheap mobile phones which will not even do 30Mb. Somehow i think Ofcom will be trusting their own methods of collecting data.

    4. John says:

      @Mark, You wouldn’t lose the speed differentiator though, admitidly it’s harder to get to but comparison sites could make that easyer and with it being specific to your line/property it’s much more accurate. IMO an accurate harder to get to result is better than an up front catch all that you end up knowhere near.

      The underlying technoloy doesn’t have to come into it, it can be quoted for those that care but the speed is still the main differentiator.

      I guess it comes down to personal preference.

  4. Sam says:

    When did the phrase up to become so confusing, you get an estimate as you check out so this is a non issue.

    Ofcom are stupid.

  5. Simon says:

    Got to admit speed has been solid here for 5 months now

  6. Hopalongtom says:

    On Virgin Super fibre 200, I’ve never had more than 40mbps download speed!

    1. Phil says:

      Wired or wireless? If wireless, you’re probably on 2.4Ghz

    2. Hopalongtom says:

      Wireless on the 5G one, wired I only get 80 out of the advertised 200!

    3. Mike says:

      “On Virgin Super fibre 200, I’ve never had more than 40mbps download speed!”
      “Wireless on the 5G one, wired I only get 80 out of the advertised 200!”

      SO…
      1. You can get more than 40Mb
      2. If 40Mb is all you can get on 5ghz wifi then either thats user error or modem positioned too far away from device you are using or has many obstruction like walls between them
      3. Basically user error.

    4. Hopalongtom says:

      Sat on the couch across from the router is too far away, gotcha.

    5. Oleg says:

      Hard to believe anything you have to say when in one breath you state “I’ve never had more than 40mbps download speed!” and in the next you say you can get 80Mb.

    6. Hopalongtom says:

      Sure if I sit right next to the router to plug it in, but that’s awkward to have to do, and that speed is still nowhere near what I’m paying for!

    7. Boosteroo says:

      Buy a Linksys below or google WiFi if the VM hub isn’t up to snuff.

    8. Boosteroo says:

      Make that Linksys Velop and not “below”. Ha ha. Autocorrect.

    9. Mark says:

      http://www.speedtest.net/result/a/3671488779

      About 8-10 feet from router.

      Download 216.72 Mb/s
      Upload 12.74 Mb/s
      Connected to 5G WiFi, with router set to 20/40/80 Mhz

    10. Mike says:

      We all eagerly await his horrid speed test.

    11. Chris P says:

      @Mark / Mike

      It’s disingenuous to pretend that people don’t have problems on VM.
      Most people have no clue what the numbers mean or what they can expect when connecting to their favourite sites. Many will have the service bundled as part of a tv package and again won’t appreciate what 50 or 200 mbs means. What they know is that at their home the service is slow but at someone else’s on dsl the service is better. It is entirely possible to have the slow speeds that hopalongtom describes and they could be due to numerous issues. The cable networks are built to deliver tv downstream and are optimised to do just that in a multicast fashion, data is a bolt on and suffers due to the need to be unicast. Data over cable behaves more like a hub, with all client modems attached to an edge node able to see each other’s rf traffic, rather than like a switch where each client connection is isolated. Cable networks suffer greatly from saturation, if everyone on your node is hammering away each individual connection will get slower and slower, those in flats will likely suffer the most. Delivery of data over cable is far more primitive in nature than dsl type unicast solutions. Encryption of the cable traffic between headend and client modem is the only thing that stops your neighbours sniffing your traffic on VM.

      I had an ongoing issue on vm ~10 years ago, had around 15 engineer visits etc, turned out to be a corroded splitter where the cable from the street entered my house. Took along time to get anyone from vm to look into it and then fix it, one of the most frustrating things ever. The tv service was faultless through out.

    12. Mike says:

      “It’s disingenuous to pretend that people don’t have problems on VM.”

      Its more disingenuous to claim you have a problem or slow speed but refuse to demonstrate it.

  7. TTT says:

    Faster upload speeds, IPv6, and a static IP (that actually works) would be reasons to move to (or stay away from) Virgin.
    What good are great download speeds if the rest of the service is unusable.?!?

    1. Baldrickk says:

      Poor upload speeds are my only problem with Virgin, but you can blame the Docsis 3.0 spec for that. Should be dramatically improved with Docsis 3.1.

    2. CarlT says:

      3.1 won’t make any difference initially as it’s going on download / forward path only.

      The 3.0 specification is delivering 50Mb-100Mb elsewhere. Even many VM people themselves don’t know why the uploads aren’t higher.

    3. Mike says:

      “Faster upload speeds, IPv6, and a static IP (that actually works)”

      Upload rates on top tier services are now quicker than fastest FTTC upload speeds and as for Static IP that is not available on residential packages, the same as for many ISPs including BT.

  8. patrick joseph murphy says:

    I have been with VM for 7 months now and the average speed was 0.79 when I was supposed to get 300 mbps, when you phoned them up they would increase the speed and after 5 minutes dropped to 0.79, they said the speed they advertised is pc only and if you use any other devices in your home the speed will drop, I call that mis selling ???

    1. Baldrickk says:

      It depends on the device. See my comment above with links to speedtests.
      My pretty modern phone just can’t saturate the connection, while my desktop can do it with ease.

      What are you trying to use to test your speed?

  9. Rose says:

    Not surprising, since Virgin dumped all their customers that they couldn’t provide fast broadband to. Thereby ensuring that average speeds for the rest of their customer base automatically went up !!

    1. CarlT says:

      Any citations of evidence for that? Would be massive news if true.

    2. Mike says:

      OMG LOL

      Just as i thought the stupid comments from some were over.

      Im sure there will be more to come. I love VM news items all the woodworms come out LOL

  10. Phil says:

    The old method of “up to” was much easier to understand than it will become, as it seems now it is a complete mess. As an individual, the properties of my telephone line are identical regardless of which ISP I join assuming I’m staying with the same technology, e.g. FTTC. Yet depending on the ISP customer base and how actively that ISP are cherry picking or rejecting those on very long lines, some will look to provide significantly faster speeds to me than others. If I wasn’t understanding of the technology, I could end up paying more to join a “faster” advertising ISP that in reality gives me the same sync speed as a seemingly slower advertised service with another ISP.
    To an individual person, the advertised average speed of a service they buy has no influence over what they actually get, which is mostly dependant on distance. With this new system, everyone is worse off as it is harder to compare like for like now.

    What is more important to everyone is that they can make use of the maximum sync speed they can get, so contention and slow downs at peak times is the important thing here. If I sync at 40Mb with ISP A, I will also sync at 40Mb with ISP B (FTTC), but if ISP A has a 50% reduction in speeds during peak time then that is the important factor for deciding which ISP to choose, not sync speed, which I can’t change short of moving house. Yes that congestion sort of gets taken into account with the average speeds advertised, however a large amount of that average is based on sync speed of most of their customers.

    The better idea would have been to keep the up to sync speeds, so we could easily compare packages, continue to give the customer their own estimate at the order stage, but then introduce a “ISP hygiene rating”. That rating could be 1 to 5 similar to restaurant ratings, which takes into account slow downs at peak times, the amount of complaints they get, how quickly faults are fixed and so. This makes comparisons so much easier for the general public as we can compare for example up to 80 packages across the board, we get given the same estimated line speed to avoid confusion based on our own line and not an average of that ISPs customer base, then can pick based on the ISP hygiene rating versus price.

  11. M Pickford says:

    Why is it you feel you have to constantly lie about these speeds who are you getting your information from I get vivid 100 start at maymbe 87 within a couple of minutes down to 25 then down to less than 5 so what’s going on

    1. Oleg says:

      If you disagree with how Ofcom got their figures write to them all about your personal opinions

  12. Mr M. McMillan says:

    I am very disapointed with them . A company is only as good as the people they employ and this bunch is totaly incapable at customer service of anykind they lie , do nothing and overcharge every month what a bunch of cowboy morons ive had nothing but problems with them for 12 months and they had the cheek to put up the price mid contract.

    1. Mike says:

      “nothing but problems with them for 12 months”

      Maybe if you are now out of contract you should change providers if they are not to your satisfaction.

  13. Shirley Manuel says:

    You have got to be joking. I have been a Virgin customer for years and haven’t seen a rise in speeds. It is slow, when my husband and I are searching the net, playing a game one of us has to turn WiFi off. It’s a discrace .

    1. Mike says:

      Any speedtest to show how “slow” it is?

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