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thinkbroadband speed test passes Virgin Media tests
Tuesday 11 November 2008 13:50:34 by Andrew Ferguson

At the end of October we highlighted that our speed tester was more than ready for the soon to launch Virgin Media 50Mbps cable products. This is now supported by the news from Virgin Media that our tester is the only one to have passed a range of rigorous tests.

"We are pleased that Virgin Media has carried out its own rigorous tests on our speed tester and we hope it will give consumers extra confidence in the accuracy and performance that our speed tester provides. We invite both consumers and broadband providers to use our speed tester as it will give people with fast broadband connections a reliable indication of their broadband speed. While we are confident that we can cope with measuring the current range of broadband speeds, we are not going to stop here, but continue to develop the tester and upgrade the platform in the hope that one day people will have affordable access to connections faster than 100Meg. Virgin Media is setting a gold standard by highlighting its 50 Meg package - let’s hope other providers will also keep up with technology."

Sebastien Lahtinen, founder of thinkbroadband.com

The unique nature of thinkbroadband where we own and manage the network and server hardware allows us to keep up with the increasing speed of broadband connections that are available to consumers. We are aware that running a speed test against a single server cannot tell you the complete story about your connection, which is one reason why we launched the free tbbMeter application recently, so that people can track what speeds they are getting from all the places they visit on the Internet.


Click image to see larger version

The graph above shows the extent of the problem with a wide range of speed test sites, thinkbroadband is the one named 'Hotel' on the graph. Virgin Media has hidden the names of the other speed test sites, but the list of sites tested in no particular order was:

  • Speedtest.net (London)
  • Speedtest.net (Maidenhead)
  • Broadband.co.uk
  • Broadband-Expert.co.uk
  • ISPreview.co.uk
  • BroadbandChoices.co.uk
  • BroadbandWatchdog.co.uk
  • BroadbandSpeedChecker.co.uk
  • Thinkbroadband.com
  • BroadbandGenie.co.uk

Initially it was thought Virgin Media was just testing 50Meg connections, but it also did some tests for 20Meg, and only two sites passed the 90% threshold, ourselves and Speedtest.net (London). The average for the 20Meg testing was just 10.2Mbps and this was for testing done in the middle of the day, not the evening peak period. This low average for 20Mbps connections shows how far some speed testers have to go to provide reliable data to the public.

"Most speed testing sites are not accurately measuring the new generation of high speed broadband services offering 20Mb and above - so there is a real risk that customers are being misled. Our testing of 10 major speedtesting sites found only one accurately measured our upcoming 50Mb service, and only two accurately reporting on our 20Mb service. The various speedtest sites are now collaborating with us to improve standards to ensure consumers are able to make well-informed choices, however our results show there is still a long way to go."

Jon James, Director of Group Strategy at Virgin Media

Virgin Media is setting a standard with its 50Mbps product, so it will be interesting to watch how the product develops. It really marks the start of next generation broadband speeds for consumers in the UK, but content providers now need to ensure that they can serve content at speeds that complement the speeds the consumer can buy. A video streaming website that has stuttering playback might be accepted by people on 1Meg connections, but those on a premium 50Meg connection are likely to simply look elsewhere for their content.

Comments

Posted by browney over 8 years ago
when i had 10Mb i never got 10 on your speedtest, when I got 20Mb I never got 20Mb so I can't see how people will see 50Mb most I have got is 13Mb from your speedtest
Posted by bosie over 8 years ago
I usually get to within 10% differential to my sync speed (19.5/2.5Mbps) which seems fair. I wonder if Virgin tested upload speed - would be interested to see the results.
Posted by jrawle over 8 years ago
So does this mean Virgin Media will refund money to any customers who don't get the speed they pay for when they use the thinkbroadband tester?

Incidentally, I stopped using this site's test a long time ago as it never worked properly on Linux, which I always found strange given that it's Java.
Posted by kiwiboy over 8 years ago
That's great that TB performs well in the tests but don't think that means much when Virgin its just one out of many providers available. Also, known that they have serious capacity problems in connection with other networks. Not to mention that the tests were recorded in one day - You would need to monitor the performance for a longer period to jump into any conclusions who measures more accurately.
Posted by Fixer109 over 8 years ago
Does this mean that Virgin are going to join Sky's truly 'unlimited' broadband or will they continue with traffic shaping and if so will they publish their figures and times this will be done?
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Most sites do accurately reprisent the speeds you'll see to individual downloads - VM's peering arrangements make sure of that. Of course, you can download from two sites at 10MBit on your nice 20MBit connection, but...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Does this mean that Virgin are going to join Sky's truly 'unlimited' broadband or will they continue with traffic shaping and if so will they publish their figures and times this will be done?"

No it means what it says... They accept the speed test here is accurate. Thinking Virgin will become truely unlimited is a pipe dream and nothing to do with this story.
Posted by adslmax over 8 years ago
Virgin Media is planning a possible non-traffic management, truely unlimited, no fair use policy with a max speed of 50Mbps at the right price of £50 a month to fight against Sky of non-traffic management, truely unlimited, no fair use policy with a max speed of 16Mbps at the right price of £10 a month. But, of course both of them are force to take out 12 months contract.
Posted by adslmax over 8 years ago
I don't think anyone want to fork out £50 a month if Virgin Media had traffic management, fair use policy of download / upload with too expensive at £50 a month. I just hope that Virgin Media bosses will say "We will let the customers pay for the service what they want is 100% speed, 100% no fair use policy, 100% unlimited of downloading & uploading and most important is the correct truely 12 months contract with no hassle if they pay £50 a month".
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
adslmax - Source? Sounds like complete rubbish to me. NTL don't have the bandwidth avaliable. Unless they just intend to degrade everyone else's connection (again).

Also, on speed tests you mention "work", Andrew: Anything other than a standard connection to L3 providers as offered to normal websites is a distortion of this.
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
"... this site ... never worked properly on Linux"

When I looked into this a while back, I concluded that it was to do with "TCP Slow Start" and differences in behaviour between different IP stacks. Google finds a couple of my BBS posts here re "TCP slow start" but they're from early 2007 and gone from AG, I can't see how to get the text out of GoogleCache, and I've forgotten the detail.

My favourite tester is numion.com but it's not on VM's .co.uk-only list and I have no idea how it does above the 2Mb which I still use!
Posted by jrawle over 8 years ago
I'm pleased to say that it now seems to work on Linux! I normally use speedtest.net which tonight agrees with thinkbroadbamd for my (non-Virgin) ISP.
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
Glad to hear it worked, I never had real problems with AG speedtest not working on Linux (that wouldn't be Slow Start), I just saw noticeable differences in results between different OSes on the same box.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
of course the speedtest is also testing VM's peering/transit capacity so if they have good peering to speedtest site A but not to site B then it will affect results.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"I don't think anyone want to fork out £50 a month if Virgin Media had traffic management, fair use policy of download / upload with too expensive at £50 a month."

People on 20Mb right now can pay upto £40 per month for their broadband from them if they dont have their phone or Tv with them, or any bundled deal.
Like i said Virgin unlimited 50Mb..... PIPEDREAM!
Posted by PeteK over 8 years ago
@Posted by Dawn_Falcon about 15 hours ago
Most sites do accurately reprisent the speeds you'll see to individual downloads - VM's peering arrangements make sure of that.

Lol at you VM with peering, now don't make me laugh. We have four routes to VM including two via peering houses and continually have customers grumbling at slow transfer from their co-lo'ed servers. They might have a peer to the speedtest sites, but they definately don't have anything like enough peering for general home punters. Oddly they don't use the same peering for their leased lines..
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
well to get back to the graph, without the test times labeled, it means almost nothing... you cannot even compare the testers, without knowledge of what servers were used...

pretty graph, but quite useles.... :( :(

Can TBB not produce one themselves? then all this missing info can be 'filled in'...
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Sure this 50M thing looks great, and VM have got some nice publicity... BUT!!!

A supercar with a top speed of 200MPH looks fantastic too, as well as showing off your 'boyracer' status.... BUT WHERE can you find a place in UK to show this off???

Until 1 month contracts are the norm, it will be rather pointless, due to contract lockins...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Well we know we are called hotel in the graphs, but the others, well it is up to them to come forward...odd that they are mostly silent.
Posted by tam over 8 years ago
Now, if only your tester can report 100Mb speeds accurately rather than the wide range of figures I usually get ;)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
All depends on what the links are like between you and us...John/Seb can usually comment on this if you tell them about the connection.

Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
PeteK - That's what I mean. Remember these tests were run at relatively quiet time, and still most speed testers were not getting the peering to go full-out...

(I am not, I repeat not, a fan of VM)
Posted by hrf over 8 years ago
Please present statistics properly! The graph should be a bar chart not a line graph as it represents discrete data, ie not continuous, there is no relavance to data shown in between the tests.
Posted by ggugvrunt over 8 years ago
hrf - IMHO the statistics are represented in the clearest way possible. You could not show 10 sets of data on the same bar chart (some overlapping) and be expected to make any sense of the resulting mess.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
Maybe he is hungrey and wanted a pie chart?
Posted by ggugvrunt over 8 years ago
lol Carpet, I'll have a slice then :)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
The graph is the one that Virgin Media produced, as was mentioned in the article. The other sites involved will have had their own personal copy with a full set of their results.

Does make one think about the various no. 1 for speed awards though.
Posted by tomcat2001 over 8 years ago
I have been using Netmeter for some time but decided to try your speedtester. I have just one moan and that is that it would be perfect if you could allow a 'Click Through' on it. If you have somthing on the site that clashes it means moving it to some other part of the Desktop. TW
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
you have tried the forum on this??
http://bbs.adslguide.org.uk/postlist.php?Board=tbbmeter

I think a lot is 'work in progress' ... :)
Posted by Groovehound over 8 years ago
I typically only hit 10Mbps at such an off-peak time as 5am. Most other times it's 5-8Mbps, which is NOT superior to standard ADSL products out there, whilst the upload speeds are a disgrace, never going above 440kbps out of a potential 512 (and at a 20:1 down:up ratio, every bit counts).
VM really need to sort these issues out, it's far from professional...
Posted by comnut over 8 years ago
Groovehound: you need to try the OTHER forums on this, where the 'audience' is a lot larger than about 10 or 20....
http://www.forum.digitalspy.co.uk/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=75
http://www.avforums.com/forums/virgin-media-blueyonder/

- A lot there DO have more than 10meg, where(being a proper forum) they can show thier location, speak a lot better, and actually talk about getting help from VM newsgroups, web and phone...

A lot have had positive results, may be worth trying??? - if you ever see this, as it is not on the main page any more, you have to search for it...
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