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Virgin, ADSL or mobile?

rwmorris

Member
Hi all,

Bit of a complicated one, this, but bear with me. I’m looking for some really rock solid advice. I’m genuinely unsure as to what to do broadband wise.

My parents live in a Virgin Media cable area. Over the past decade, my brother and I have moved out, and they’re now living alone. They’ve slowly stopped all the services they had when we were also living there, they stopped Virgin Media TV and also their landline as they just weren’t using it anymore.

They’re both nearly 70 and still have Virgin Media broadband. I’m getting a little fed up with having to remind them to keep having to renegotiate a new contract, also, frankly, not sure my dad is doing a particularly good job at these renegotiations.

What they have, for the two of them, is massive, massive overkill. They’re paying like £45 a month for 110mbps down and 10 up. They literally use it for Netflix/iPlayer (no UHD), some FaceTime and their various Alexa devices. I suppose the most unusual thing they do is dad sometimes does big batch uploads of photos to Amazon Photos (they use their Echo Shows as photo frames) but that’s it. They’ve also got a Ring doorbell but I’d say that’s a minor matter.

Thing is, Virgin seem to have sold my dad on the idea that he needs this level of speed. He told me he wants no reduction in internet speed “because we watch Netflix”. I’ve told him something 200 times slower would still let him watch Netflix and iPlayer.

The problem is, the area where they live is totally dominated by Virgin Media, so much so that BT have never even put in fibre lines, it seems. The only packages they can get through BT lines are all ADSL, around 12-19mbps with 1mbps upload. 10mbps down guaranteed through Now (Sky). They’re 844m straight line distance from the local exchange, apparently. The exchange does have LLU for Sky and TalkTalk.

They’ve also been on Virgin for so long (we moved when it was ntl:home back in the 90s) that BT are saying they’ve got to install a new line if we move back to an Openreach provider. I’m not sure if this means “reconnect the line,” or if this means “we are going to dig up your front garden” (my parents will absolutely not have their immaculate front garden touched). They’ve still got the old BT master socket in their hallway, but it hasn’t been used in 25 years. All the phone lines in the street are underground.

The other option is Three home broadband, which is available in their area, but with the only decent-ish prices being for a 24 month contract, I’m just not sure.
If it turned out to be total crap after the initial 14 day cooling off period, then what? I assume it’s not regulated in the same way standard fixed lines are, whereby if it doesn’t meet a minimum speed, you can leave without penalty.
Despite being in a Virgin Media area, they aren’t actually in a major city, a small town, so Three network congestion, I assume, wouldn’t be too bad.

So, what are our options?

  • Try and negotiate with Virgin Media (again), it’s also worth pointing out my parent’s Super Hub is a load of crap and drops out all the time when on FaceTime, even in the room below the hub, so there’s clearly something weird with their current set up anyway.

  • Get a cheap ADSL provider like Now broadband who are guaranteeing a 10mbps minimum speed for £18 a month, and 1mbps upload, which I think is more than ample, but might need some kind of (as yet undefined) works to reconnect the phone line.

  • Or risk it and try Three broadband at £17 a month for 24 months, or £20 for 12 months?

Any ideas anyone? I’m honestly stumped as to what to do.

Any advice gratefully received.

Thanks.
 

THB

Casual Member
I would NOT jump straight into a contract with Three (or any other mobile broadband provider) without first testing the speeds available in the location you want it. The easiest way to do that for Three would be to get a SIM card from Smarty, buy the cheapest one month plan and put the SIM in your phone to test the speeds. You might need to walk around the house into various rooms (and maybe into the loft!) to find where the best speeds are. However, I would also strongly recommend trying out other mobile providers too, such as Vodafone (through Voxi) and EE, to see what speeds other providers can offer. They might offer better speeds than Three which make them worth a small extra cost.

If the speeds do work out OK on Smarty, then I would get my own router off eBay/Amazon and stick with Smarty on £20/month one month contract for a few months and see how things are going. If you're getting complaints from your parents then you know this isn't an option and you can cancel the one month SIM. If it is working well then I'd consider signing up for a longer contract to get those cheaper price (Top Tip: Use cashback sites to find the best deals available - Smarty/Three currently £16/month for 12 months, Vodafone Max currently £18.50/month for 12 months after cashback).

Even if you only try mobile broadband and it fails, I believe that after 45 days you become eligible for Virgin's "New Customer" deals again so you could always go back to them at a cheaper price afterwards.
 

rwmorris

Member
I would NOT jump straight into a contract with Three (or any other mobile broadband provider) without first testing the speeds available in the location you want it. The easiest way to do that for Three would be to get a SIM card from Smarty, buy the cheapest one month plan and put the SIM in your phone to test the speeds. You might need to walk around the house into various rooms (and maybe into the loft!) to find where the best speeds are. However, I would also strongly recommend trying out other mobile providers too, such as Vodafone (through Voxi) and EE, to see what speeds other providers can offer. They might offer better speeds than Three which make them worth a small extra cost.

If the speeds do work out OK on Smarty, then I would get my own router off eBay/Amazon and stick with Smarty on £20/month one month contract for a few months and see how things are going. If you're getting complaints from your parents then you know this isn't an option and you can cancel the one month SIM. If it is working well then I'd consider signing up for a longer contract to get those cheaper price (Top Tip: Use cashback sites to find the best deals available - Smarty/Three currently £16/month for 12 months, Vodafone Max currently £18.50/month for 12 months after cashback).

Even if you only try mobile broadband and it fails, I believe that after 45 days you become eligible for Virgin's "New Customer" deals again so you could always go back to them at a cheaper price afterwards.
Thanks so much, I actually hadn't thought of this. I know that EE has good signal where they are, one bar, but actually high speeds. Vodafone I'm not so sure on.

I moved to Three a while back for my own mobile contract and was thinking when I see them at the end of the month (for the first time in many months) I could walk around the house doing multiple speed tests. I'll try this.

I feel like Three might be the best option for them if the speeds are good. But that's a huge if.

Thanks for this, I think it's a pretty good option to trial.
 

TTJJ

ULTIMATE Member
Thanks so much, I actually hadn't thought of this. I know that EE has good signal where they are, one bar, but actually high speeds. Vodafone I'm not so sure on.

I moved to Three a while back for my own mobile contract and was thinking when I see them at the end of the month (for the first time in many months) I could walk around the house doing multiple speed tests. I'll try this.

I feel like Three might be the best option for them if the speeds are good. But that's a huge if.

Thanks for this, I think it's a pretty good option to trial.
With Three though the speeds can be very much irrelevant, especially when it comes to streaming. Speeds can be good but Netflix will sometimes play at super low resolutions and constantly buffer because of how their core network operates. It really isn’t worth it.
 

kommando828

ULTIMATE Member
Take over the negotiation's with Virgin, masts can go down for days at a time for maintenance (I get round this by having 2 4G routers with 2 cheap deals with Three and Voda, feeding a dual wan router), ADSL would work but doubt you could persuade your dad, plus you would get what I had which is a line dependant on weather so every time it rains you lose connection but the engineers visit when its dry.
 

eccles

Casual Member
I switched from Virgin Media to Three Mobile using a Huawei router. The router has a socket that can accept a BT phone.
Advantages:
Absolute certainty of the price per month. This month went up by 50p as per the RPI and was expected. Virgin was a monthly lottery.
Some redundancy with 3g for backup to 4g.
Anytime phone calls thrown in with the usual mobile call barring and call ID.
In my case speeds are better than BT and its derivatives so the only viable alternative is Virgin Media.
I don't use Netflix, but I never get iplayer buffering apart from the couple of times when there has been obvious disruption. BBC's UHD documentaries all played fine.
There's no one else anywhere near on price.
Disadvantages:
Download speeds are not guaranteed. I usually get from 30mb/s up to 80mb/s or occasionally up to 90mb/s but very occasionally during busy periods it can drop to 20mb/s
A bit of basic knowledge and an ability to switch bands to avoid congestion is an advantage. I use a program called LTEInspecteur.
Because the service is signal dependent router placement can be important and you'll need a mains socket near where you place it. I bought an LTE antenna that helped here. Another point about this is that wired ethernet to the router might not be convenient because of placement so make sure your wi-fi signal is ok. The Huawei's wi-fi range is pretty good. 5mhz gives you the best speed. 2.4mhz gives greater range and can be congested with overspill from neighbours.
Kommando828 is right regarding downtime. I have had two instances in the last 18 months where the 4g service was down for two or three days. However 3g was maintained as backup and I was able to continue on this reduced service for banking and internet browsing and calls. iPlayer streaming switched to SD from HD. On no occasion so far have I been left with nothing as has occasionally been the case with Virgin Media.

Hope that helps.
 
Hi all,

Bit of a complicated one, this, but bear with me. I’m looking for some really rock solid advice. I’m genuinely unsure as to what to do broadband wise.

My parents live in a Virgin Media cable area. Over the past decade, my brother and I have moved out, and they’re now living alone. They’ve slowly stopped all the services they had when we were also living there, they stopped Virgin Media TV and also their landline as they just weren’t using it anymore.

They’re both nearly 70 and still have Virgin Media broadband. I’m getting a little fed up with having to remind them to keep having to renegotiate a new contract, also, frankly, not sure my dad is doing a particularly good job at these renegotiations.

What they have, for the two of them, is massive, massive overkill. They’re paying like £45 a month for 110mbps down and 10 up. They literally use it for Netflix/iPlayer (no UHD), some FaceTime and their various Alexa devices. I suppose the most unusual thing they do is dad sometimes does big batch uploads of photos to Amazon Photos (they use their Echo Shows as photo frames) but that’s it. They’ve also got a Ring doorbell but I’d say that’s a minor matter.

Thing is, Virgin seem to have sold my dad on the idea that he needs this level of speed. He told me he wants no reduction in internet speed “because we watch Netflix”. I’ve told him something 200 times slower would still let him watch Netflix and iPlayer.

The problem is, the area where they live is totally dominated by Virgin Media, so much so that BT have never even put in fibre lines, it seems. The only packages they can get through BT lines are all ADSL, around 12-19mbps with 1mbps upload. 10mbps down guaranteed through Now (Sky). They’re 844m straight line distance from the local exchange, apparently. The exchange does have LLU for Sky and TalkTalk.

They’ve also been on Virgin for so long (we moved when it was ntl:home back in the 90s) that BT are saying they’ve got to install a new line if we move back to an Openreach provider. I’m not sure if this means “reconnect the line,” or if this means “we are going to dig up your front garden” (my parents will absolutely not have their immaculate front garden touched). They’ve still got the old BT master socket in their hallway, but it hasn’t been used in 25 years. All the phone lines in the street are underground.

The other option is Three home broadband, which is available in their area, but with the only decent-ish prices being for a 24 month contract, I’m just not sure.
If it turned out to be total crap after the initial 14 day cooling off period, then what? I assume it’s not regulated in the same way standard fixed lines are, whereby if it doesn’t meet a minimum speed, you can leave without penalty.
Despite being in a Virgin Media area, they aren’t actually in a major city, a small town, so Three network congestion, I assume, wouldn’t be too bad.

So, what are our options?

  • Try and negotiate with Virgin Media (again), it’s also worth pointing out my parent’s Super Hub is a load of crap and drops out all the time when on FaceTime, even in the room below the hub, so there’s clearly something weird with their current set up anyway.

  • Get a cheap ADSL provider like Now broadband who are guaranteeing a 10mbps minimum speed for £18 a month, and 1mbps upload, which I think is more than ample, but might need some kind of (as yet undefined) works to reconnect the phone line.

  • Or risk it and try Three broadband at £17 a month for 24 months, or £20 for 12 months?

Any ideas anyone? I’m honestly stumped as to what to do.

Any advice gratefully received.

Thanks.
I personally wouldn’t go for Three. It‘s too risky with mobile broadband, as one change in infrastructure could ruin your 4G /5G connection. Three’s backhaul is also poor. Unfortunately Three like to give their masts oversized coverage parameters, so even in rural areas the masts can be greatly oversubscribed and have slow speeds. I’d avoid Three at all costs.

It sounds like your parents are quite ‘light‘ internet users, and shouldn’t be paying for Virgin. ADSL would work just fine. Especially considering BT would install a new line for them. Netflix and the smart home equipment should work just fine.

A note about Now, it uses Sky’s infrastructure via the Openreach network obviously, and a rebranded Sky Q router. It’s a definite win for your parents. Consider the ‘upgrade’ to paying for BT as you get a better router which may work much better than the Now router.

Hope this provides some rough guidance for you and your parents.
 

rwmorris

Member
Hi all, original poster here.

So just as an update on this. They picked up a Three home broadband router on a rolling month contract. I figured that it was best to trial it, rather than relying on Three's somewhat questionable 14 day money back guarantee, which some seem to say is not always honoured.

I spoke to Three before ordering, basically, if we're happy with it, the parents can just then enter into a contract for a cheaper price per month.

Went back to visit them for the weekend, disconnected their old router, plugged in the new one, transferred over their old SSID and password etc., and my word it's impressive.

They are not yet in a 5G area, they're literally on the edge of it according to Three's coverage map, but even their 4G broadband is pretty good! Off peak times give 50 down and 25 up, peak times give around 25 down and 15 up.

For their use case scenario, it's just what they need. I tried streaming three TVs simultaneously and each one got full HD and no drop outs at all. Even commercial streaming, where it has to load individual ads during programmes (I figured the 70ms ping might start to show here) was absolutely no different to their cable connection.

It's, genuinely, really impressive. We're one week in, I've told them to try it for a few weeks before deciding if they want to cancel Virgin. But, I've been deliberately telling them to try and stream as much as possible between 7-10pm, and there's just no failures they're reporting at all.

The only pain is moving over their email addresses after decades of being with @ntlworld.com, but currently forwarding emails to a new address and will start moving accounts over shortly with them.

Of course, it's early days, and if it turns out to be total crap I'll update you all again, but colour me surprised. My partner's job is literally in engineering radio frequencies etc., they said they'd be amazed if it actually works properly as a home broadband connection. Yeah, we're both, shocked, frankly.

They'll never game on it, obviously, so there's a big difference there. And, bear in mind, my parents are in a small town in a rural area, so network congestion will not be such an issue.

But seriously, we are jaws on the floor that this actually worked. I'd say if anyone else is thinking of doing it, take out the 30 day rolling 4G contract if you can (they don't offer this on 5G contracts, annoyingly), and see how you get on. I can foresee that we'll be entering into a contract with them in the next few weeks, probably.
 

rwmorris

Member
Oh, I should also say, thanks so much for everyone's input! I did take all of it on board. It was really, really appreciated. It was a uniquely weird situation and all your advice was gratefully received.
 

kommando828

ULTIMATE Member
Your parents Three mast performs like mine which is also rural, just be aware the mast can go down for routine maintenance or upgrades, normally you lose signal 9am to 5pm and they switch it back on for the evenings if they can. Worst was a recent upgrade which took 2 weeks so lost signal weekdays 9 to 5 with a couple of overnights too.

A backup 4G router on a different provider like Voda (as long as currently a signal) with a PAYG sim could be used as a backup. Just before the swap load up the sim with some data credit. If the mast is a shared Three/EE mast do not use EE as the backup as they typically go down together.
 
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