We covered some six weeks ago the new time periods and trigger levels that Virgin Media was testing for its DOCSIS based cable services. CableForum.co.uk now has the news that Virgin Media is starting to email some users of its cable service who it feels download or upload excessively to inform them of the new limits. For those who are not sent a copy of the letter Virgin Media has updated its website to show the new levels too.
|Package||10am to 3pm download daily trigger level||4pm to 9pm download daily trigger level||3pm to 8pm upload daily trigger level||Capped Speed||Daily maximum usage|
|Broadband M||900 MB||450 MB||200 MB||1 Mbps (download)
128 Kbps (upload)
|Broadband L (10Mbps)||2400 MB||1200 MB||700 MB||2.5 Mbps (download)
128 Kbps (upload)
|Broadband XL||6000 MB||3000 MB||1400 MB||5 Mbps (download)
192 Kbps (upload)
It should be noted that your downloads are also restricted even if it was just the upload traffic that passed the trigger level in a single time period. To give people some idea of what the 200MB trigger level on Broadband M means, online gaming equates to around 30MB/hour of upload traffic, so it is unlikely you will trigger the traffic management. Homes where this will be a problem are if two people are gaming, or someone uploads a batch of photos to an online photo site for instance.
The system appears to be a move to define the peak period as being 10am to 9pm, but with such an early end to the evening peak period there is a real chance that people will simply delay large downloads to just after 9pm which will impact on even the light users at this time. Certainly this effect has been seen on several providers over the years and a busy network where contention is happening can result in higher latency or worse packet loss impacting on real-time type activities like streaming and gaming.
The daily allowance which is what the limits boil down to is generous compared to many BT Wholesale based products, which for Virgin Media is fine if they just want to compete with BT based products. Alas most Virgin Media areas also have unbundled ADSL2+ services from providers like Sky and O2 that while suffering from line length issues meaning only 3 to 5% will see 20Mbps speeds from ADSL2+, people will be often be able to get a service that is faster than the 2Mbps of Size M for around the same price or less and generally be able to do more with the connection.
One big problem with daily allowances is that they will impact on those who download a lot just one day a month, as well as homes that download masses every day. Which means the 1% of affected customers will not be a static affair, but over time will mean an increasing percentage of their customers will at some point have triggered the system. Over time this may mean that while a company would be happy to churn away the heaviest users, it may actually lose those who are occasionally above average. In Virgin Media's case the fact that many will have telephone or cable TV bundles could see an impact on more than broadband revenues.
2009 should see the 50Mbps cable broadband products appearing, and it will be interesting to see what price premium is charged and how much extra freedom this buys for people.