Virgin throttles broadband for high-speed customers

Virgin throttles broadband for high-speed customers

Summary: People on 30Mbps or higher broadband packages will see their downloads limited to 50 percent of the top speed if they go beyond a set usage allowance


Virgin Media customers on fast cable broadband packages could see their download speeds squeezed by up to 50 percent, under new traffic management policies introduced on Monday.

Virgin Media engineers

People on 30Mbps or higher broadband packages will see their downloads limited to 50 percent of the top speed if they go beyond a set usage allowance, Virgin Media has said. Image credit: Virgin Media

Under the new traffic-shaping policies, everyone on Virgin's 30Mbps or faster packages (PDF) can expect to see their top speed throttled by half for a five-hour period if they go beyond a set usage allowance.

"Broadband services are by their nature shared resources, so Virgin Media's traffic management policy is designed to ensure the vast majority of customers get the high quality of service they expect from Virgin Media's fibre-optic broadband without being negatively affected by extremely heavy users using more than their fair share at the busiest times," a company spokesman told ZDNet UK.

Traffic management of the network "poses a unique challenge, due to the speed of the services we offer", he added.

The download caps come in immediately across the packages, rather than waiting until Virgin has completed its upgrade that will see download rates doubled for most customers on fast broadband plans. After that rollout, expected to be finished in 18 months, those on the existing 30Mbps or 50Mbps package will have their speeds increased to 60Mbps and 100Mbps, respectively.

Traffic management policies 

Virgin has operated traffic management policies on some of its packages since 2007, and already had caps in place for peer-to-peer service (P2P) usage on some of its broadband plans at certain times of day.

Under the new policy, customers could have their upload or download speeds limited for a set time period if they exceed the usage allowance for the time of day. The size of the cap depends on the top rate promised by their plan.

For example, a 50Mbps subscriber will have their download speed cut in half between the hours of 10am and 3pm if they exceed 10GB of usage before the speed upgrade, or 20GB post-upgrade. In the afternoon, caps come in if they exceed 5GB or 10GB (depending on upgrade status) of bandwidth between 4pm and 9pm. Usage between 3pm and 4pm is not restricted, Virgin confirmed.

Some of the 30Mbps-plus packages also attract upload throttling of up to 75 percent, in addition to download speed restrictions.

If a subscriber has already had their package upgraded and is subject to a five-hour traffic cap, their maximum download speed will effectively be reduced to the level of their previous package, according to Virgin's spokesman. He added that only around three percent of Virgin Media subscribers have their connections throttled on a daily basis.

People on slower 20Mbps and below packages (PDF) will also see caps, which could result in their download and upload rates being reduced to just 25 percent of the maximum.

Super-fast broadband packages from other providers, such as BT's Infinity service, also use traffic throttling to control the bandwidth demanded by applications and services such as P2P file-sharing. BT itself is the process of rolling out speed upgrades for its Infinity packages.

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Topics: Broadband, Networking

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • So if I switch on all my electric gadgets at home, will the electric company reduce the voltage to 110v for 5 hours? Stupid policy, but the silly "Up TO" phrase actually means No More Than, so they can get away with daylight robbery!
  • Not impressed. They speed it up then take it back off you. :(
  • This is not a new policy. VM already impose throttles on their broadband packages using exactly the same method. What this represents is an increase in the allowances and so is good news :)
  • This isn't really news about the throttling policy, they've been doing it for years and it's designed to protect the 'many' from the 'few'.
    If you are downloading that volume of content on a daily basis then clearly you would fall into the 'few' category and should be setting schedules for the content you're downloading to avoid getting throttled outside of peak times.
    If customers don't play nice, nor will the ISP and I agree with that policy. Work with the rules, not against them
  • Virgin Media throttles its customers far more aggressively than any other broadband provider. We were with them for over a year, and the service was appalling. The whole issue of throttling needs to be looked at far more closely. It is not about guaranteeing a better service for other customers. It is about saving money for the provider, by reducing the amount of internet access that the provider has to buy in. We were not just throttled during peak hours. We were throttled 24/7. Another heads up about Virgin Media is that their phone charges are very high.
  • Downloading 5, 10 or 20Gb in a single day is taking the piss, full stop. You should EXPECT to be throttled. You're jamming up the network for your traffic and your traffic alone. All the OTHER users are paying for THEIR service, too. Suck it up, leeches.
    • games are much larger than 5GB

      are you having a laugh if you buy fibre broadband for gaming you going to want to be able to download games. And i can assure you 80% of top of the range games are above 5GB battlefield 3 for instance is 17GB
      Alex Lehrer
  • At the start of this, it states NEWS ( in red ). HOW is this news???? VM have always had a traffic Management policy in place!!! This IS NOT news, this is just somebody trying to scaremonger the VM populace again. Please try to tell us of some relevant new news, rather than old news, which is about 3 years out of date. Thanks.
  • @tsgadam, actually they never throttled the 50 meg package, which is why many people I know moved to it.

    Does this mean people who signed up when there was not any rate limiting on their packages and virgin has deckded to move the goal posts can decided to pay virgin realtive to the speed that have got for x period of the day.

    Looking at the pdf it appears its a case of relax the limits on the lower tier packages and start speed raping the people on the higher packages to compensate.
  • I expect to be throttled if I "take the mickey", but the thing I want to know is how I can find out what my personal usage stat's are. I'd like to see how much I'm using - similar to my gas and electricity metering - and modify my behaviour accordingly. Anyone know how to do this on VM or if this is possible at all?
  • Virgin did NOT throttle the download on the 50mb service so adding traffic management to this service is big news. Couple this with them increasing my price by £2.25 but keeping this a secret until now is very bad.

    For those of you, like me, who are on the 50mb service and not due to have your speed doubled until later in the year, I suggest you do what I did and phone Virgin and ask them if they'll upgrade you to 100mb immediately. They did this for me, only took about 15 minutes, and now if I get crippled I only go back to 50mb which is what I had in the first place.

    An added bonus is that if you sign up for another year your price gets reduced to £34.75 and not the £37.25 that they were going to charge me.
    The Programmer
  • We recently upgraded to the virgin media 50/60mbps package to avoid throttling. Deeply disappointed with Virgin Media, considering this.

    Then again I run a home server which I manage by ssh and tunnel through to my home desktop. This is useful as I can manage my steam downloads whilst I'm at work, so I'm not throttled in the evening. Non savvy users will just lose out even more.
  • Why not go to www.thinkbroadband and used their monitor download and other monitoring facilities like speed testing and latency testing. I do and find the stats resulting very interesting and useful
  • I'm on a 10Meg connection with Virgin Media (cable) and, with only moderate use, I already feel throttled to extinction. That or the the service is very poor in ways that I cannot explain other than contention is very high, and/or the their network structure cannot deal with the load, and/or the wider network is just overwhelmed.

    I recently replaced my old Motorola modem, which had failed, with Virgin Media's latest wireless modem and saw no difference.
    The Former Moley
  • These limitations and this degree of throttling were not in my contract with VM, so I regard this measure as being of dubious legality. This sort of customer abuse is the reason why I signed a one-year contract rather than a two-year contract: so that in the event of an unreasonable diminution in service I could leave them promptly. Even the matter of ‘unreasonable use’ (‘taking the mick’, as someone painfully put it) is irrelevant. There was no reference in the contract to any amount of usage which would be deemed to constitute a strain on the system, and most PC users have no idea what this even means in reality. I doubt whether most even know the terminology. All legal matters, including contracts, are subject to the ‘reasonable man’ test, and if VM’s policy is challenged in court it will fail.
  • I agree with More Tether. When I signed up, the stipulation was, unlimited downloads. As a former SysAdmin, I refresh my emergency rescue discs ( DVD and/or CD) regularly, many, if not most of which, which get updated to a more comprehensive version, fairly frequently. To me, this level of preventive system care, is acceptable usage, ensuring user systems can be recovered - or the data backed off. If this ISP can't deliver, I too will switch, encouraging my colleagues in the profession, to do the same. Service downgrading is not for me. I won't wear it
  • " As a former SysAdmin, I refresh my emergency rescue discs ( DVD and/or CD) regularly, many, if not most of which, which get updated to a more comprehensive version, fairly frequently. "

    Blah blah blah.....

    Pay peanuts, get monkeys.

    If your broadband is that important to you, get a truly unlimited, unthrottled broadband connection from an ISP such as AAISP,ZEN, Easynet Business (not Sky !).

    You get what you pay for in this life.
  • I'm on the 20 Mb service. Up to 5 weeks ago our speed, determined by your test, was up to 117 Mb/sec. The last 5 weekends our internet has been down for most of the time, and when up our connection speed is about 18 Mb/s. They aren't very good at this stuff, or they despise their customers, or both. Trouble is, I rather need this email address..
    dave heasman
  • Virgin are becoming as bad as some of the worst providers of broadband they constantly traffic manage people regardless of the 3gb use before 12am and this should be deemed obtaining money by deception as well as fraud,the law should say when you sign up on the phone they have to tell you the same as the contract will read and the sales recorded permenantly as a refrence to the paper work if they ever fail to match together they will be prosecuted so they have to give exactly the speed they say not a 1kb less than they say you'll get that will do away with this deceptive behaviour from all isps ofcom don't even do anything they charge 10p per minute to contact them it's looking more like they are in favour of making money than serving the public
  • What I wonder is whether those complaining aboout the download throttling are the thieves illegally downloading copyrighted material.