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Virgin Media O2 UK Trial Faster Uploads and Free Broadband

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021 (12:01 am) - Score 6,024

Broadband ISP Virgin Media UK (VMO2) has recently been spotted running a couple of interesting trials, one of which appeared to give a limited number of people access to take a completely “free” 10Mbps broadband service, while the other doubled the upload speeds for selected customers on their 100Mbps tier.

In terms of the free broadband service, this was recently spotted by a couple of our regular readers (here) and appeared to form part of a campaign that the operator called “Be Connected Broadband” (promoted sporadically via social media). A special website was initially setup for this – https://beconnected-virginmedia.com, which was promptly removed after we queried what the business rationale was for such an offer.

Essentially, Virgin Media were offering a basic 10Mbps (average download speed) unlimited broadband service with an included HUB 3.0 router for free on a 30-day (monthly) contract term. The service itself had a target speed of 15Mbps, which made it seem very similar to their social tariff (here), except of course for being free instead of costing £15 per month.

However, the terms for this most unusual of offers did require customers to “consent to marketing” in return for receiving the “free” service, although they didn’t clarify what sort of marketing people could expect to receive or how often.

Be Connected Broadband Terms

New residential customers only. Limited trial only available to approximately 200 eligible new customers. Premises must already have an existing Virgin Media pre-wire installed. Customer must consent to marketing to receive free service. 30 day rolling contract, £0 a month. Broadband only. If you upgrade any aspect of the service, standard pricing may apply to that upgrade unless offer is made available. Virgin Media reserves the right to withdraw or amend the pricing if you change any part of your package. Virgin Media reserves the right to withdraw this offer at any time. Offer may not be used in conjunction with any other offer unless stated by Virgin Media.”

The operator would only confirm to ISPreview.co.uk that the offer of a free broadband service was indeed genuine and part of a small trial, but sadly they declined to provide any further information. Queue plenty of head scratching, as we try to work out whether the marketing requirement would be enough to cover the costs of such a service (this requirement was only mentioned in the small print).

Finally, a second trial has been confirmed, which involved “some” existing customers of their 100Mbps download package being granted a significant 20Mbps boost to their uploads (normally 10Mbps). The bad news is that this speed trial will only be running for a limited period of time, and we assume it’ll revert to 10Mbps at some point in the future.

A Virgin Media spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We are always working to improve our products so regularly trial new services and offers. We have some really exciting projects underway and our customers have a lot to look forward to.”

Earlier this year (Jan-Feb 2021) we did notice that Virgin Media were advertising their 100Mbps package with an upload speed of 20Mbps, although they later confirmed that this was in fact a website “error.” We queried whether the 20Mbps upload trial was related to that advertising blunder, but were informed that it was a separate trial – indeed some of those who got the boost have been customers since before that occurred.

In short, VMO2 may have just given us a brief but tantalising hint of things to come.

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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. James White says:

    Interesting they just deleted the DNS records! You can see the cached content here still: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:A8XN9_B3fe8J:https://www.beconnected-virginmedia.com/+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    100/20mbps is pretty reasonable for a typical base package, hope it becomes standard one day. I’d imagine it will be only when DOCSIS 3.1 is widely available in the majority of networks though? Even most VDSL packages have 20 mbps upload, upload speed has always been a bit of pain with VM, even on Gig1 I’d say the upload is actually something that puts me off it currently, but again DOCSIS 3.1 hopefully will allow that to be higher in the future.

    1. yeehaa says:

      I really cannot wait for them to upgrade their uploads to DOCSIS 3.1 I’m in an area where it’s either VM or stuck with OR FTTC for the moment.

    2. Winston Smith says:

      I wonder if the global chip shortage is causing problems with Hub 4 supplies.

    3. AQX says:

      Tv boxes, Hubs, Pods/Boosters etc are all in short supply. The chip shortage is causing issues throughout the entire company.

  2. Meadmodj says:

    This may simply turn out to be a proof of concept but it raises an interesting issue in my mind.

    With DSL via OR we have become used to being able to switch between ISPs and although some may have gone with VM (mostly for TV) we are now entering a position where there may be 3 or more network providers in a competitive street. If people change ISP in future and it requires a change of network provider are they really going to retain the presence of the others in their living space? (e.g VM Isolator or OR, CityFibre and FW ONT’s combinations over time). If equipment is removed or disturbed the cost of reinstating and the disruption for the customer may be enough to deter people changing to an ISP on another network.

    VM could in future consider it important to maintain their brand presence (particularly in their legacy areas) even if another ISP is used for a period, deter customers removing any external boxes and internal isolators, offer services such as VoIP, be able to provide excellent indoor coverage by WIFI Calling (O2), VM public WIFI, smart home functionality etc especially if it means no engineering tasks, little impact on their network and the legal right to send “do you want to upgrade” messages.

    I certainly see two markets that could be targeted with this offering:
    Minimal broadband use who just want a landline (VoIP) and an alarm.
    Mobile lifestyle that just need smart home internet 24/7.

    1. CarlT says:

      That former customers have no business doing anything with either the external omnibox or the internal plant would I’d hope deter them from messing with them.

      It can and does degrade service for other customers. That and unterminated connections are the two biggest causes of network faults for VM.

    2. Meadmodj says:

      Yes agree, it is owned by the network provider and may effect the their network regardless of technology. But its what is actually happening now when people buy/renovate in Crawley with any damage likely to be blamed on a previous owner/tenant or tradesman. It may include ONTs in future.

      Just highlighting it may be in the interest of the network provider to offer a dormant service.

      There is already FTTC, VM HFC, OR FTTP and FW FTTP present in some roads of East Grinstead with CityFibre expected soon. As far as the average customer is concerned when the contract ends that box on the wall can come off.

    3. Meadmodj says:

      Sorry actually in East Grinstead its VM FTTP with Coax through the wall.

  3. Sam says:

    If they bring back O2 Home Broadband I will jump on it, I miss my old O2 connection.

    1. JP says:

      It would never be the same again, the old Be Unlimted LLU days are well and truly gone.

    2. Yeehaa says:

      I’m a former Be Unlimited customer as well. They were a great ISP back in the late 2000s. As Demon Internet was to the dial-up era, Be Unlimited was to the ADSL era.

  4. Ben says:

    Glad to see an increase in upload speeds. IMO it’s pretty poor that their “flagship” Gig1 package only has an upload speed of 50Mb. I think it’s pretty clear that CityFibre and other AltNets are snapping at Virgin’s heels, so I suspect an increase in upload speeds across the board is inevitable.

    The poor upload speeds, uncompetitive pricing, and poor customer service are the three things stopping me from considering Virgin / packages on Virgin’s network. It’s good to read about this trial, because I imagine this plus the network being opened up at the wholesale level will result in 3 reasonably large wholesale end-user networks in the UK (Openreach, Virgin, and CityFibre) – this can only be good for competition.

    1. s says:

      The upload speeds are poor, though they are probably not directly comparable with most other services due to ack filtering common in DOCSIS modems (resulting in significantly less upstream usage while downloading).

    2. Capt Kirk says:

      Good, stay away, I’m loving Virgin.

  5. Scott says:

    When the product is free then you become the product.

    Wonder what marketing and network analytics are taking place.

    1. James White says:

      You can say the same for services like Facebook but people either accept this fact or don’t care as long as they get what they perceive to be value out of it.

      I’m pretty sure any marketing and analytics that happens is likely already happening for all customers on the standard broadband packages anyway.

  6. Capt Kirk says:

    Virgin : keep your noses out :p

  7. SymetricalAccess says:

    Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.

    I consider the amount of monitoring and data harvesting by foreign bodies a threat to national security. Should be tighter control of it.

    As for the possible upload speed increase, good to see then trying but it’s still not enough. 40-50 would be a good start on the lower tier packages with the faster packages being more symetrical I think is the way to go.

    Can you imagine the customer service on those free packages!

    1. JP says:

      Non existent for paying customers from what I remeber…..

    2. GNewton says:

      Agreed, the existing upload speeds for VM cable as well as Openreach VDSL are pathetic. There are quite a number of users, especially certain types of businesses, where upload speeds are important. Unfortunately, altnets with symmetric fibre are not available in many areas. I know of a number of premises where users simply deployed multiple VDSL lines to the same premise (line bonding) because of the lack of fibre and/or sufficient upload speeds.

    3. Ben says:

      In fairness leased lines are available if you’re a business and ness symmetrical speeds.

    4. GNewton says:

      @Ben: Leased are sometimes an option, but they are not available everywhere, contrary to what is commonly claimed here. Sometimes simple things like unsorted wayleaves, ridiculous pricing due to a long distance to nearest ‘Point of Presence’, or simply not being an option for certain areas. For smaller businesses, or home offices, other solutions are more reasonable, such as moving office premises to a location which has a fibre-optic network.

  8. Ronnie says:

    free vm broadband will be good as backup internet service

    1. JP says:

      Yep, its works well, 16Mb/s down and 2Mb/s up.

  9. Dan says:

    I’ve been put on the 20 up 100 down profile recently. It still uses DOCSIS 3.0 on both upload and download. I’m in an FTTP project lightning area if that helps.

    1. JP says:

      Don’t seem to be based on area or type of network, I know a connection in old school HFC area with the 100/20 profile active too.

  10. Dan Spurr says:

    Dear, virgin media.

    I would happily sign up to any marketing, newsletter or mailer for a connection to where i live, will also sign over 1 kidney if that will help.

    your faithfully
    long suffering ADSL user

  11. mike says:

    Would be nice if they’re planning to give everyone upload speeds that are 20% of download. Even 10% would be an improvement for their top packages.

    1. Bob says:

      The fact that people are saying it’s great that they are offering 20% or whatever upload to download speed ratio is mind blowing.

      We should want nothing less than symmetrical.

      Most ISPs in this country have been nothing but greedy for decades – I cannot wait until there are proper ISPs available to the masses, hopefully they will bankrupt these greedy companies that have offered substandard services for years.

  12. Gaz says:

    Could it be part of a trial for VM to start opening up their network to other ISPs?

    ISP’s such as Vodafone and Talk Talk etc could then provide their services over Openreach or VM (or Cityfibre in some areas) and offer similar speeds as they currently do with VDSL?

    1. CarlT says:

      Nah. They do this from time to time regardless. There are other issues far less obvious to end users as far as wholesaling HFC cable goes.

      The FTTP not so bad. The HFC problematic.

    2. AQX says:

      From experience they typically run these trials to see how the network handles it and then decide whether or not to risk making it live across all their sites. It’s basically a risk assessment

  13. Matt says:

    Opie of this article I finally got my gigabit broadband installed tomorrow I was the one called Matt or Matthew on the room always putting still waiting for 1 GB

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