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ISP Vodafone UK Responds to Gripes Over Slow Video Streaming UPDATE

Friday, March 1st, 2019 (1:12 pm) - Score 4,661
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Over the past couple of months there appears to have been a rise in complaints from customers of Vodafone’s superfast home broadband (FTTC) packages. Quite a few are reporting slowing speeds, particularly related to problems when trying to use popular video streaming services (Netflix, Twitch etc.).

Until now Vodafone’s support staff have generally insisted there is nothing wrong with the affected lines and instead pointed customers toward a variety of possible causes outside of their own network, with congested local WiFi and router faults being some of their past suggestions (a few people have had their routers replaced or tried a wired connection, without improvement).

Issues like the ones being described on Vodafone’s forum (here), as well as on our site (here), can be caused by all sorts of different things. General network congestion, problems with routing / peering and even issues with Domain Name Servers (DNS) can impact connectivity performance.

In a statement first published today on The Register, Vodafone has now officially blamed the sporadic problem on “some line cards” and stated that the issue only affects a “small number of customers” (note: they have a total fixed broadband customer base of 525,000+).

Vodafone Statement

“We are in the process of upgrading our network configuration and discovered a technical issue with some line cards which means a small number of customers may experience slower speeds when accessing certain sites. This has nothing to do with throttling or traffic management, which we do not use on our broadband service.

We are working hard to fix the issue in order to give any customer affected a great online experience. We’re sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

On a Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC) service the line cards generally sit inside one of Openreach’s green street “fibre broadband” cabinets (DSLAMS), although the cards themselves shouldn’t be slow unless there’s a wider issue at work (problems with backhaul capacity or configuration may be a possibility but we’d need to see more detail).

In any case it’s good to know that Vodafone are aware of the problem and working on a fix, even if they’ve been unable to offer any solid ETA for when the problem might be resolved. In the meantime it’s worth noting that Vodafone are also one of the cheapest of the big ISPs for FTTC broadband services.

We note that Vodafone’s two FTTC packages – Superfast 1 (Average speed of 35Mbps) and Superfast 2 (Average speed of 63Mbps) – also offer an “Ultimate Speed Guarantee” feature, which promises customers a guaranteed minimum download speed (i.e. “sync speeds” to the router, not over wifi etc.) of 25Mbps (Superfast 1) and 55Mbps (Superfast 2).

In the event that Vodafone fails to achieve the stated minimum speeds then the ISP says customers could be given a 15% discount (once per month) until the issue is fixed, although this sort of guarantee can become tricky when only specific services are being affected by performance issues that are hard to pin down. The advertising watchdog highlighted a similar problem last year (here).

UPDATE 4:20pm

One of Vodafone’s admin agents for their community forum has just posted a useful update on the problem.

Phil, Vodafone Forum Administrator, said:

“Vodafone are continuing to invest heavily in their Broadband network – part of this investment is new hardware. Since its installation we’ve seen degradation of services for some of our customers. Working with our vendors we’ve identified the root cause & have tested a fix within our lab environment.

Over the next few weeks this fix will be rolled out to the live Network. Customer experience is key to everything we do within Vodafone, so we apologise for this drop in performance.”

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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21 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil

    Or in other words their network is congested, so they’ll say only a small number of customers are affected (because only a percentage have complained), and point the problem at something else. Their level 2 support have blamed other peoples Wi-Fi interfering with the copper telephone line when a customer still experiences the same slow speeds when wired via Ethernet, which is amazing when you consider those Wi-Fi points have the intelligence to only affect single threaded downloads and not multi-threaded tests with their interference! So now blaming something else like port cards is just another attempt at pushing the obvious under the carpet.

    If it looks like congestion, tests like congestion, and smells like congestion, then it’s congestion.

    The irony with their statement is if they did have traffic management in place, then video streaming would be prioritised and people wouldn’t be complaining so much.

    • Avatar MrC

      How can it be congestion if as you say and the register articles say that multi thread is not affected?

      If it was congestion then surely all speedtests would be impacted and people wouldn’t be getting 80Mbps on multiple thread speed tests but 16M on single?

    • Avatar MrC

      Oh and some users report that everything is all OK on VPN. Smells like a network issue to me.

    • Avatar Fool

      Err they’ve admitted liability within their equipment…

  2. Avatar jelv

    @MrC One of the classic signs of congestion is when the thinkbroadband speed tests show far better speed on the x6 test than the x1. Think about it: if all threads are being slowed to a maximum of 20Mbps you’d still see easily see 80Mbps on the x6 test but only 20Mbps on the single threaded (over simplification I know, but it illustrates the reason).

  3. Avatar Badger

    I confirm, vpn not affected, not decreased capacity or a line card issue. Smells of bodged traffic management.

  4. Avatar MrC

    Thanks Jelv!

    Boring afternoon for me and finally finished reading that 20 pager on the forums and Voda phone have posted saying it’s an issue they have been working with the vendor on.

    https://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/Internet-speed/100-Proof-of-throttling-twitch-iptv-etc/td-p/2619260/page/20

    “Vodafone are continuing to invest heavily in their Broadband network – part of this investment is new hardware. Since its installation we’ve seen degradation of services for some of our customers. Working with our vendors we’ve identified the root cause & have tested a fix within our lab environment.

    Over the next few weeks this fix will be rolled out to the live Network. Customer experience is key to everything we do within Vodafone, so we apologise for this drop in performance.”

  5. Avatar Dragon

    Could be a line card in a core/aggregation router Thayer than the FTTC cab

    • Avatar MrC

      Seems so, this is the update from their forums:

      Vodafone are continuing to invest heavily in their Broadband network – part of this investment is new hardware. Since its installation we’ve seen degradation of services for some of our customers. Working with our vendors we’ve identified the root cause & have tested a fix within our lab environment.

      Over the next few weeks this fix will be rolled out to the live Network. Customer experience is key to everything we do within Vodafone, so we apologise for this drop in performance.

  6. Avatar Forsaken

    Line cards is an odd one to blame without more technical detail.

    I’m not on Voda but things I’d be trying: different DNS, different OTT services and looking for a common denominator.

    I don’t know Voda’s CDN makeup but its typical for ISPs to have on-network Caches for Google and Netflix etc. Other services like Twitch are likely multi-cdn and could be on or off the network for Voda (Using CDN’s like Fastly, Akamai, Cloudfront). Narrowing that down would be a good step.

    • Avatar Andrew Ferguson

      thinkbroadband speed test files are not served from a CDN so rules that idea out. Also are SSL based, so reliant on site certificates matching.

      If DNS on a speed test you would see a big gap from when the timer started running to first data packet and that is not happening.

    • Avatar Phil

      @Forsaken

      DNS wouldn’t be the cause of a slow down like this. DNS only comes into play to translate a web address to an IP address, it’s all over and done with in milliseconds. If you then visit the same site (browsing pages etc) no DNS lookup takes place as the computer/device will normally have cached it. If DNS isn’t working properly symptoms are either no page at all with a browser error message, or finding some sites randomly fail to display at all while others work. DNS errors wouldn’t slow video streaming down or affect speed tests. If the video stream has started playing or the speed test has commenced, DNS has done it’s job and plays no further part.

  7. Avatar Mike

    Well if you go with a garbage ISP what do you expect?

  8. Avatar Bulldog

    Some facts. It is not due to congestion or throttling. It is due to some new line cards installed in the Vodafone network having a slightly different behaviour to existing ones. The cards were installed to add capacity and some customers have been slowly migrated on to them. A fix has been tested and will start being rolled out next week.

    • Avatar mike

      So, it’s a Juniper (or Cisco, Arista, or whatever) bug in a core network card. Possibly in one link of a n x 100G bundle so hard to spot.

      Nothing to do with street cabinet line cards, which are identical for every ISP using OpenReach.

  9. Avatar Sam

    It’ll be cards on CDN interconnect routers. This’ll be why VPNs aren’t affected. Still, rediculous it’s took this long for them to admit there’s an issue.

    • Avatar Keith

      One of the problems with Vodafone’s support is that without getting a “champion” within the VF support team, their customers can complain until they are blue in the face. There appears to be no system to get issues raised beyond their level 2 tech other than someone who is prepared to circumvent set process.

    • Avatar industry-bod

      While I don’t have any details, this would appear amongst the most logical causes for the behaviour experienced by what seems like a significant proportion of their users..

  10. Avatar Simon Mansfield

    Some of us (like myself) who spent over 14hrs+ on the phone to various Vodafone support team members explaining the issues in detail, only to be told time and time again that it was nonsense and the cause must be internal.

    So where do we now stand, when it comes to the fact that I ended up PAYING to get out of my contract, just to recieve the level of service that I was guranteed I’d apparently have with Voda!?

  11. Avatar Thomas H

    I’m having the same issues here. Is it worth waiting to see if the “fix” actually works?! I’ve only been with VF for 10 days or so but I’ve gone through all the fault tree diagnosis I can think of and it’s certainly not internal like they say.

  12. Avatar Andrew

    I started this thread on the Vodafone community website:
    https://forum.vodafone.co.uk/t5/Other-broadband-queries/Vodafone-Throttling-Netflix/td-p/2622422

    Users including myself have posted a tone of line speed stats. Response from Vodafone has been so poor. Take a look at the graphs I posted. If you can come up with a reasonable explanation for what you see on those charts….

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