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A Week of Extremes as Virgin Media’s UK Internet Traffic Surges

Thursday, April 1st, 2021 (10:18 am) - Score 17,544
internet_traffic_uk_illustration

Gigabit broadband ISP Virgin Media has reported a week of extreme variations in UK internet traffic, which saw both the lowest level of upstream traffic in 2021 occur on Tuesday and then, the very next day, one of the highest peaks in downstream traffic hit their network (thanks to another massive Call of Duty update).

The unusual trends started on Tuesday 30th March 2021, a day before the latest lockdown restrictions were due to be relaxed. On that day much of the United Kingdom found itself bathed in a heatwave, which saw temperatures in some parts of the country jump above 24c after a long period of colder weather.

NOTE: The % rises and falls in this article are in comparison to average weekday figures from the year to date.

On that same day Virgin Media recorded its “quietest weekday” for data uploads (e.g. video calls, sending emails) on fixed broadband lines so far in 2021, with traffic dropping by 19% during the afternoon of the hottest day of the year so far. But at the same time Virgin’s mobile customers, now largely untethered from home WiFi, saw the busiest day for mobile traffic this year, with usage up by 13% on recent weeks (their 5G customers also burnt through 7% more data than usual).

However, it was all change for Wednesday 31st, when the ISP reported their “biggest day for downloads on record.” As we’ve seen many times before, this event was triggered by the latest update to the popular Call of Duty: Warzone game (plus a smaller 8-14GB update for Black Ops Cold War). The mid-season update weighed in at over 50GB (GigaBytes) on most platforms and a staggering 133.6GB on PC if you needed both the Warzone and the Modern Warfare update.

Jeanie York, VM’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, said: “As restrictions continue to lift, the country starts to bounce back and many people move towards more hybrid models of work, we expect broadband behaviour to shift once again. Whatever the future holds, we are committed to keeping our customers connected at home or on-the-go.”

The majority of broadband ISPs are comfortable having to tackle such pressures on their networks. Many also employ Content Delivery Networks (CDN), which help to cache popular content closer to their end-users and this reduces the strain on external capacity links. You can also see the impact of Wednesday’s traffic surge on switches at the London Internet Exchange (LINX), which saw peaks above 5.6Tbps (Terabits per second).

NOTE: LINX does NOT provide a complete overview of internet traffic flow from all of the ISPs, but they do offer a useful indication of how much extra traffic is flowing around.

linx_march_2021_traffic

We should point out that demand for data is constantly rising and so new peaks of usage are being set all the time by every ISP (usage typically grows by 30%+ each year), although usual trends often give this change a bit of a push.

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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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33 Responses
  1. Avatar serval says:

    Just as they complete their M600 Expansion
    rip m500

  2. Avatar Karl Betts says:

    Should this matter ? I’m paying for the 1gb service and I don’t need to know about how much I’m rinsing my connection ! Constantly

    1. Avatar JP says:

      Shame my mobile downloads and uploads faster isn’t it.

    2. Avatar Gary Gritter says:

      Of course they need to know. How can they manage their network if they don’t monitor how heavy the traffic is? Lol.

  3. Avatar Steven Brown says:

    Gigabit broadband ISP Virgin Media, please ha

    1. Avatar serval says:

      thats gonna be completed by late 2021

    2. Avatar JP says:

      Not seen anything recently, they’ve got a lot to do before end of year.

    3. Avatar CarlT says:

      Lots going on behind the scenes and in the field. The harder parts to upgrade will take longer as they require boots on the ground replacing some of the contents of cabinets. Should be okay for end of year as long as the upgrades go okay.

    4. Avatar Myrealnameis...... says:

      I get roughly 670Mbps on my virgin line. I wouldn’t say 1024Mbps is that far away really

    5. Avatar JP says:

      Carl – I’ll believe it when I see it, in 10 years I’ve not seen customer experience improve, still same issues in the same places never getting fixed, and to add to that they remain many steps behind their international equivalents.

    6. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      Affordable connectivity, Virgin Media….HA!

    7. Avatar Anna says:

      JP Agreed – 2Gbps/2Gbps for £52 a month in Switzerland – no contract and a free router!

    8. Avatar Mohamed Muhammad says:

      Virgin Media took peoples money and did not keep to their promise of providing the service.
      I found Talk Talk better then virgin Media.

  4. Avatar Saajid Patel says:

    Since the new super fast Virgin Media upgrade my 200mbps gone down to 100mbps when you ring up they chat rubbish.

    1. Avatar Anthony Smith says:

      I’ve had the same problem with this too I got a £10 discount which is Appalling

    2. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

      So is that a 50% discount on your monthly bill? They’d rather do this than fix the problem…..

    3. Avatar CarlT says:

      Depending on the issue fixing them can be very challenging, not just flicking a switch.

      Partially self-inflicted on their part.

  5. Avatar Kevin Barry says:

    On the M500 Ben getting 63mb . Sometimes getting 220mb but generally erratic and when challenged it is always a network issue in your area. The network issue is it is Virgin.

    1. Avatar AQX says:

      Request an ofcom speed review and if there’s an issue you can leave after 30 days when you receive the results. If you’re using WiFi for your speed tests then the issue can be WiFi and best using wired connection to check it

  6. Avatar Diane Wadsworth says:

    Have been reporting issues with broadband since early February. Online support recognise issue, engineer visit found no problem. Second engineer finally called out confirmed capacity issue, got a remedy number that advised would be resolved end of April!!.
    Why then if there is a problem in the area does the broadband status say everything is okay!
    I am having to use a pay as you go dongle to supplement.
    Come on Virgin recognise your service is nor good enough and sort it out and own up to the issues

  7. Avatar Sab says:

    Had gig1 with VM since day 1 it went live last year just before lockdown and although I had to get my own router to actually get decent speeds over WiFi I get the advertised speeds.

    1. Avatar JP says:

      Interesting as the advertised speeds are 1100mbps and in modem mode its limited to 940mbps !

    2. Avatar Phil says:

      Yes JP – because that’s the limit for a gigabit connection over ethernet (ethernet frames carry more than data, so there’s always overhead)

  8. Avatar Rob says:

    I’m just in the process of moving from VM to Openreach FTTP (out of the frying pan?)

    Seven years of dropped collections and a string of tickets but they never seem to fix anything. Lots of discounts – I’m told were are over contention so the power levels drop and we lose connection. This might even out once all the neighbours (who are as fed up with it as I am) leave them…

  9. Avatar Mrs H Ryan says:

    We have had virgin media for many years.
    But the email on my mobile disappeared 4 weeks ago. Can you help me.

    1. Avatar André says:

      I’m afraid you’re better off contacting Virgin directly, this is a forum for commenting on generic ISP-related news and you’re unlikely to find specific technical support on here.
      Good luck!

  10. Avatar Litlephil says:

    I am happy been with virgin since well days gone by. I have no problem with my broadband and it is heavy used by all the family my mobile they keep upping my gig with no change on price. They are updating a lot at moment but there are thousands of cabinets an with the pandemic tasks have got harder. But if you do a speed test on your pad or mobile u will never get what u are on, this is a normal thing with all networks as WiFi gets weakens by all electrical items as well as all signals that now go round but you still get half if not 3 quarters depending how close u are to ur router. But if you do a speed test on a desktop say that is lead connected to the hub u will achieve you gold or more. It’s common WiFi speeds very. But I have no intention in leaving. Always get a new deal tv cinema phone mobiles (no sky sports) an am happy an if 02 and virgin do merge then we will see more as virgin will link 02 masts to there fibre. Only time will tell

  11. Avatar Billy Nomates says:

    Are they upgrading the “slower” areas first ? like the ones that can’t get M500 ?
    Will the gigabit also be bundled to TV packages like the 600mbit one is ?

    1. Avatar Winston Smith says:

      They’ll almost certainly be upgrading areas in whatever order maximizes returns. You can definitely have gigabit broadband without TV or phone.

    2. Avatar Billy Nomates says:

      Thanks Winston

  12. Avatar SymetricalAccess says:

    “Gigabit broadband ISP” LOL

    FTTP went in years ago and still can’t get Gigabit, upload will never be close to a Gigabit either. It is not a Gigabit broadband ISP.

    In any case wouldn’t touch them for the well known reasons, the fact the speed is rubbish as well is just another one on top.

    1. Avatar AQX says:

      They’re still classified as a Gigabit broadband provider because nowhere does it say to be classed as one the provider must give symmetrical speeds.

    2. Avatar SymetricalAccess says:

      Gigabit still isn’t available on the download either despite it being FTTP. In any case if it’s not symetrical it’s not Gigabit capable as far as I’m concerned. It’s only half a job, half as useful. Not Gigabit.

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