April 17, 2013

Virgin Media changes broadband traffic management

Virgin used to cut download speeds by 40% and upload speeds by 75% if customers went mad and exceeded usage caps during peak traffic times -10am-3pm and 5pm-10pm on weekdays, and 3pm-8pm on weekends. The speed reduction lasted for five hours. This throttling/service denial, euphemistically called "traffic management", doesn't affect many people - Virgin claims that only 2.3% of its users are affected by traffic management.
Now, Virgin is dropping the 10am-3pm weekday period, but extending the other period from 4pm to 11pm. It's also adjusting how much it reduces speeds by and shortening the amount of time broadband speeds will be reduced for when customers use their broadband to download in excess of the threshold.
For example, if you trigger the traffic cap by downloading, say, the previous two seasons of Game of Thrones in HD by naughty naughty means, but then immediately cease downloading so much data so that you once again fall beneath the threshold, your speed will only be reduced for an hour. (Which you probably won't notice because you are watching Westeros's finest anyway rather than wasting time on the web.)*
The data cap counter will roll in 15 minute increments, so it starts from 4pm to 5pm, and then from 4:15 to 5:15 and so on.
Simple? Hardly. Furthermore, Virgin has also cut the speed reduction. For the first hour, download speeds will be cut by 30%, rising to 40% for two hours and above. Upload speeds will be cut by 60% and 75% respectively.
Theoretically, Virgin's new system means you won't have to suffer an evening of slower speeds for briefly exceeding a download cap. But you will receive no warning from Virgin. "To get back to full speed all you need to do is reduce your usage during peak hours," the company said. But how would you know? And, what's more, how consistent is the speed you get in the first place? My service is supposed to be 100mb but over the wifi I'm seeing it peak around 75mb at the moment, but then I'm still using an older cable modem and haven't set up the new one they set me as I'm moving house shortly and can't be arsed.
Virgin Media added in a statement that the aim was to make the traffic management policy "more flexible and responsive. We remain committed to bringing greater clarity to the broadband industry and urge every provider to step up and advertise the information people need to make an informed choice," . Their attempt at clarity (to see the details click here) is quite challenging to say the least...

* Not that this blog in any way promotes such activity of course. I mean, what is this Game of Thrones anyway? And why would Virgin Media customers be remotely interested in such minority audience fayre from HBO/Sky Atlantic?? Besides, Virgin Media says that peer to peer (e.g. BitTorrent) traffic will continue to be slowed automatically during peak times, regardless of whether the user has exceeded their cap...


Dave Cross said...

"Virgin used to download speeds by 40% and upload speeds by 75%"

Is there something missing from that? Like a verb, perhaps :-)

Nialli said...

Sorry, written in haste. Now edited and re-written in places.

metallicorphan said...

I have recently gone mental with my SKY+ box with GoT season 1 and 2,Mad Men season 1,2 and 3,spaced s1 and about a dozen movies over the last week or so

I am only on 30meg with Virgin,so noticed the caps while i was downloading

so this info is good to know,thanks

adiboy said...

Sadly, for those of us on 20Mb or less, we still get a 5 hour throttle.

Tropicocity said...

Nialli, 100mbit (or 120 as I am on) and all their speeds are advertised based on the assumption/situation that the end user will connect their computer/device to the superhub via Ethernet.

100mbps+ is obtainable over wifi, but you need to have a good wireless card that supports 802.11n and possibly the new 802.11ac protocol, and from what I can tell the Superhub is very hit-or-miss with delivering 100mbps+ via wireless.

Marc Jones said...

"My service is supposed to be 100mb but over the wifi I'm seeing it peak around 75mb at the moment"

Wow. Mine is never better than 8MBps and has consistently been under 1MBps. There's not enough time to explain how bad VM have been on this - including offering and not paying refunds.

Phil Baxter said...

I hit the download cap all the time. It's very easy to do, all you have to do is watch an HD movie from iTunes/Xbox Video/Netflix/LoveFilm.

Such is the absurdity of Virgin's BB. Sold as being suitable for streaming, and yet it's both over subscribed and so likely to buffer, and even if it works, they then punish you for 'abusing' the service.

The moment BT Infinity arrives in my area, I'm off.