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Trigger Virgin Media traffic management and you are abnormal
Wednesday 22 April 2009 11:42:20 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media is once more featured in the weekly list of ASA adjudications, with a ruling about the use of the term 'unlimited' and lack of prominence given to the cable provider's traffic management policy.

'Unlimited' is allowed in advertising for broadband and mobile telephone services so long as only a small proportion of customers exceeded the data limit (or other limit such as number of text messages). Virgin Media in its response to said that only a small proportion of customers whose usage was unusually large were affected by their traffic management policy.

It seems odd that the complaint was upheld against Virgin Media, but the ASA felt while an Acceptable Use Policy was stated in the small print, the use of traffic management should also be stated. The ASA has transposed the words 'unusually large' to 'abnormal amount' of material in its assessment, which perhaps could be said about those who download 1,000GB a month, but the trigger levels range from 0.5GB to 3GB in a single day so triggering the traffic management is hardly a sign of being an obsessive downloader.

One observation we have made of the Virgin Media website is that the Acceptable Use Policy does not list the traffic management trigger levels, but rather they are documented on a help page. The table of traffic management trigger levels has expanded due to the introduction of a new entry-level "S"* product and the "M (after 10Mb upgrade)" column.

Virgin Media has gone on the record saying that average usage on its broadband service is 2.5 times that of any other provider who publishes figures. Given PlusNet is the provider with the most frequently published figures we're aware of, this would suggest a monthly usage of around 20GB for Virgin Media customers.

* Virgin Media's products are named S, M, M (after 10Mb upgrade), L, XL and XXL from small to extra extra large in ascending order.

Comments

Posted by jrawle over 7 years ago
How can they justify calling their products "unlimited" when they have two products, S, M, that have the same speeds, but different limits... sorry, "thresholds"? If "M" is for "normal" use, what is "S"? It's limited, plain and simple. 200MB on a 2Mb/s is not unusual. Software/OS updates could soon account for that.
Posted by toots66 over 7 years ago
It is unlimited in the sense that even after the traffic management kicks in, you can still download as much as you like, albeit at a much lower speed than you are paying for. Which is a bit rich when you consider that they mock ADSL for not being able to offer the speed you pay for.

To any rational observer, it is placing a limit on the service but because they don't charge extra or stop you from downloading altogether, I can see why it can be classed as unlimited.

For the record, I'm an ex-VM cable broadband customer.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
This is an interesting ruling and one I'll look at very closely with a potential to appeal some aspects. The ASA have potentially left their definition of 'unlimited' open.
I also very much have issues with Virgin Media implying their average usage at 20GB+ - that might be an average massively skewed by 24x7 serial downloading however I'd bet the median is much lower.
@toots66 - yes that's fine but in that case XL is unlimited 5Mbit not 20 as while throttled 20Mbit is absolutely unachievable.
Posted by AndrueC over 7 years ago
@Dix:I think we agree on this one :)

I doubt you'll get anywhere arguing semantics but I approve of your ideals. 'Up to' I can stomach because it's hardly rocket science to understand but 'unlimited' is a different matter.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"but the trigger levels range from 0.5GB to 3GB in a single day so triggering the traffic management is hardly a sign of being an obsessive downloader."

Virgin are a joke, they offer in excess of 20Mb speeds and then have the nerve to say 0.5gig puts you in a minority.... LMAO 500Mb (Or as good as 0.5gig) could be done in under 10 minutes with a 20Mb connection, Nice to know though hammer your connection for 10 minutes and you are in the minority LOL I wonder what the normals do.... Connect and spend the other 23.9 hours staring at the pretty router lights?
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"It is unlimited in the sense that even after the traffic management kicks in, you can still download as much as you like, albeit at a much lower speed than you are paying for."

Which according to a dictionary term would make that a "LIMIT" and not "UNLIMITED" as its a restriction
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
It's 3GB in peak times on 20Mbit not 500MB, that applies to the 2Mbit service. Still far from 'unlimited' but could be worse. Anyway that discussion's been had to death anyway, more interested in a few of the other things in the decision.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"It's 3GB in peak times on 20Mbit not 500MB, that applies to the 2Mbit service. Still far from 'unlimited' but could be worse. Anyway that discussion's been had to death anyway, more interested in a few of the other things in the decision."

Pardon me so someone that maxes their 20Mb connection for 40mins is a minority then? What the ASA have tried to do is a good thing (altered the words 'unusually large' to 'abnormal amount') but its an epic fail as Virgin are now just going to claim someone that wants to max a line for under 40mins is "ABNORMAL"
Posted by BlackAle over 7 years ago
CB: actually it's around ~20 minutes at 20mbit, but who cares, for me, VM's 20mbit suits me perfectly, even though i'm a heavy user at 400GB or so a month.
Posted by chrysalis over 7 years ago
wow it seems lately the ASA have it in for VM, whilst its good they have gone against an unlimited advert it seems once again they are been inconsistent. VM publish far more about their traffic management than BT do. So the ruling seems somewhat crazy.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
It's not the stated figures. It's the stated figure, divided by the a factor based on the overload on the local UBR. Conclusively proved that when I lived in Oxford.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
@chrysalis - http://tinyurl.com/2lxzt7 note that the P2P management is dynamic so no fixed rates.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
@Dawn_Falcon the STM limits aren't dynamic depending on load, the IOS isn't that clever. The only parameters are measuring periods, average bit rate during the period that causes enforcement, and penalty throughput and duration.
Posted by Saltank over 7 years ago
1) Implement proper capacity services to cope with all the users downloading at maximum and continue to claim the service as "unlimited" (like in the wonderful days of blueyonder)

2) Advertise the speeds as the actual speeds if the service would be capped and claim a "boost" in all other times. Eg. a 20Mbit service would actually be 5Mbit and a "boost" to 20Mbit when capacity allows it.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
@Dixi - No, the limits only changed once a week (tuesdays). I'm betting on hand adjustment of a config file.
Posted by mikeblogs over 7 years ago
The ASA should be forcing them to publish their planning rules as part of their terms of service. There is a peak hour allocation assumption, for most Adsl providers this is betweeb 18kbps and 30kbps per user.

For cable there must be number of users/usage to get to some normalised distribution.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
quote"wow it seems lately the ASA have it in for VM, whilst its good they have gone against an unlimited advert it seems once again they are been inconsistent. VM publish far more about their traffic management than BT do. So the ruling seems somewhat crazy."
Very true and probably the reason they got in trouble, obviously you cant mention limitations and then call your product unlimited.... In the case of BT they dont mention any figures for their so-called unlimited service, they just have a vague FUP so get away with it.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
@Dawn the limits aren't changed at all they are the same as they have been since the deployment of STM 1.0 on the CMTS. There is no manual adjustment of CMTS configuration - there are over 3000 of them. STM is not adjusted depending on load.
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
@mike it's tricky as they have no planning rules, they pack as many customers as they can onto each MAC domain. In my area's case it's about 415 customers onto 38Mbit however due to the size of the pipe and the tiers offered, up to 20Mbit, statistical contention doesn't work nearly as well as on STM-1/4 and GigE backhauls.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
@Dixi - Well, it's nice youre sticking with the company line, but I'm afraid the testing produced results inconsistant with the position you're claiming.

reality > company line.

(Oh, and it'd be trivial to write batch functions to adjust the files, 3000 of them is no obstacle at all, come on!)
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
I won't go off on one this time, but simply point out, 3 x people using BBC Iplayer HD would more than max out my connection (10Mbps running at 8.5, 20% missing somewhere, perhaps it's over-working my (max capacity) 1000Mbps WAN, (max capacity) 1000Mbps LAN router, go figure). My download allowance? 80 minutes then, or a bit more at 2 x HD Iplayer, since 3 x isn't possible on 8.5 Mbps...
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
FYO: BBC Iplayer HD is 3.2Mbps encoded, apparently...
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
I live with FIVE people, incidentally. Not uncommon in urban areas - and V.M. don't service anywhere else!
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
Posted by chrysalis 3 days ago
wow it seems lately the ASA have it in for VM.

Yeah, BT may not publish so much about their traffic management, but they neither bullshit about having fibre-optic internet, either. About time the ASA came down on VM, IMHO, I could take their service a lot easier without the annoying marketing, frankly.
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
Incidentally, I would both have posted this a lot more on-time and less rant (excuse the first disclaimer to the contrary) if V.M. hadn't been down for THREE DAYS and only bothered to notify people in the last 24 hours of that on the recorded status line. They're not open after 22:00 to talk to, either. Shame their faults are open after 22:00, though...
Posted by CARPETBURN over 7 years ago
Virgin get more pathetic by the day, only today i was speaking to someone that was considering JUST AND ONLY JUST the TV service from Virgin he told me you cant buy just the TV service on their website currently. Virgin want you to take their phone service in which to get the TV services. I didnt believe it until i looked this evening and saw on TV packages they all involve having to take the phone service also.... I hate BT but if its one thing they are good at its a reliable phone service, he thinks similar to me so needless to say he wont be buying from virgin
Posted by Dixinormous over 7 years ago
@Dawn - believe me or not it doesn't really matter to me. I'd welcome this test data of yours though if it's so inequivocal. Thanks.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 7 years ago
Well, that's the thing Dixi. After VM's legal threats after we showed them the data...no can do.
Posted by Groovehound over 7 years ago
VM was down again the last 5 days. Isn't the Traffic Management supposed to be in place so that the network has less strain on it? Therefore should be more reliable? Who wants a VM phone line under any circumstances? Oh look, they force you to pay for one, whilst still lying about the total price on their website "50Mb + phone line = £35" (when you take a VM phone line for £11) BAD MATHS!
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