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Virgin Media UK Start Phase 2 of Smart Support to Boost Broadband Reliability UPDATE

Monday, Jul 8th, 2024 (9:27 am) - Score 10,360
Virgin-Media-O2-Hub-5-Router

Broadband ISP Virgin Media (O2) has begun the second phase of their effort to deploy the new “Smart Support” service, which aims to boost the reliability of internet connections by proactively identifying and tackling issues remotely at no extra cost. So far only 50,000 users have benefitted from this since its April 2024 launch (here), but new customers will now join them.

Just to recap. The Smart Support service is built on technology from Cisco’s ThousandEyes (formerly SamKnows) platform (i.e. cloud-based data sets and advanced device identification technology), which initially targeted broadband customers “whose connections will be checked throughout the year as the service learns and evolves” (i.e. it monitors for things like speed drops and disconnections), before being rolled out more widely.

NOTE: The offer of a free engineer visit excludes problems caused by misuse, neglect and accidental damage.

Should smart support detect any potential connection issues to the WiFi Hub, then Virgin Media will reach out to the customer, offering guidance and simple fixes. The ISP debatably claims to be the “first major telecoms provider to proactively reach out to customers to improve their broadband experience“, which they say has seen “positive results to date with smart support resulting in a more reliable connection and less time offline for customers currently receiving the service” (no stats are provided to support this).

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The smart support process is currently being rolled out in phases – adding new features as it goes, with Phase One monitoring enrolled customers’ broadband service (c.50,000 users). By comparison, the latest Phase Two will enhance the onboarding journey and make it available to “new fibre customers“, albeit presently only for the first 14 days of service to “ensure a smooth installation period.”

Smart Support’s Multi-Layered Approach Includes:

➤ Always-on monitoring: Using smart support technology to constantly monitor the customer’s broadband speeds and connection performance.

➤ Problem solving: If a fault is detected, the WiFi Hub will work automatically overnight to try and resolve the issue.

➤ Tailored advice: If the suspected issue cannot be fixed remotely, the customer will be sent personalised advice on how they can try to resolve the issue themselves.

➤ Easy to book expert help: Should this be unsuccessful; the customer will be invited to book a free engineer appointment at a time that suits them.

As we recall, Phase Two will later be followed by Phase Three (date TBA), which will add machine learning to help fix faults and prevent them from reoccurring. Smart support will also develop to support digital TV issues (e.g. buffering) in the future, but for now it’s focused purely on the core internet connectivity angle.

The other benefit of this approach is that it could reduce calls to Virgin Media’s support lines, since customers won’t need to manually report all faults. But we should point out that proactive monitoring of broadband lines is something that other ISPs have also adopted, albeit to varying different levels of effectiveness and sophistication. Sometimes this comes as part of a premium add-on, while in other cases it’s a default feature.

However, one issue stems from Virgin Media’s use of contradictory language around the availability of Phase Two, which might cause some confusion: “T&C’s: Smart support: Subject to availability. Currently Fibre broadband only (excludes Full Fibre).” So at present this only seems to work on Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) lines and not FTTP, but it’s unclear whether the “full fibre” exclusion extends to both XGS-PON and RFoG lines (we’re checking).

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UPDATE 1:18pm

Virgin Media has informed ISPreview that the “excludes Full Fibre” bit doesn’t extend to those in FTTP areas that use RFoG (Radio Frequency over Glass), so both HFC and FTTP RFoG users are currently covered (new customers). Another tedious example of how confusing some operators have made the use of “fibre broadband” terminology.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Andrew G says:

    “Phase Two will enhance the onboarding journey and make it available to “new fibre customers“, albeit presently only for the first 14 days of service to “ensure a smooth installation period.”

    For new customers for 14 days? Wow, that’s cynical. VM are going to do their utmost to ensure the connection works as promised during new customer’s cooling off period, and after that one you’re locked in for 18 months well….no, you’re on your own. And it’s especially poor because VM’s HFC technology is particularly cranky and often unreliable, and prone to slow speeds and congestion in some areas.

    So glad I’m no longer a customer.

    1. Avatar photo JimB says:

      Cisco were a few years ago incredibly incompetent and their C-suite were deep into the cult of Jack Walsh. I spent 6 month under contract with them earning £650 per day, plus whatever they were paying the agency on top. Five of those months were spend sitting around waiting for them to complete internal paper work so I could actually start work. I told them I would walk a couple of times and was begged to stay. Finally I was assigned to a team working out of Israel who were very hostile and made it perfectly clear they didn’t want me and other contractors around. One moth later I was let go and a couple of months later I heard that the Israeli team had their toys taken away and sacked, which was nice. Given the levels of waste and inefficiency I saw from my time there and other horror stories I have heard over the years. They aren’t cheap so I imagine rolling this to all customers all the time is prohibitively expensive. I would imagine they have a number of licences that they can shift around, so if a customer has hard to pin down problems they can shift one to them.

    2. Avatar photo Anonymouse says:

      @JimB: Tallies with my first hand experience of Cisco/Cisco related entities in recent years. Dysfunctional.

    3. Avatar photo Ben says:

      > if a customer has hard to pin down problems they can shift one to them

      I imagine it’ll be an upsell…

  2. Avatar photo vm is obsolete says:

    ah VM would love it if they could just get some AI doodar to do all the work for them.
    instead of having the call centre guy tell you absolutely nothing is wrong, when it is, and to turning it off and on again

  3. Avatar photo Daniel says:

    Slightly off topic but does nexfibre have a rollout map or anything with info with build updates or going live dates on it?

    1. Avatar photo anon says:

      yes it’s on their website. i don’t think i can post the link though as the spam filter thinks everything i say is spam anyway (100% of it). but nextfibre [dot] co [dot] uk [slash] our-network and look on the page for “You can download our build plan here ” which is a link to the PDF

  4. Avatar photo MRLeeds says:

    So they’re not fixing all the issues or the reliability, they’re just making it so they know about them a bit sooner. Great…

  5. Avatar photo Fleetafoot says:

    Well if only they would use the data in the Help Desk to realise when the problem is in their network. My experience is that you have to raise a complaint to get them to fix their network cabling connections to a property.

    The problem with proactive problem-solving is the initial backlog of issues, so limiting its use is understandable.

  6. Avatar photo Hamish John McIntosh says:

    Thank god £74 for a 1 gig connect with unusable lag playing on my 5g handset tethered as the lag is way less than vermin media’s.

  7. Avatar photo Dave says:

    Typical virgin media promise you the world but give you nothing but lies and inconsistent lies and actually fix nothing

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