Skip Navigation

O2 bite back at Virgin's 'stop the broadband con' campaign
Friday 19 November 2010 12:46:15 by John Hunt

O2 are fighting back at Virgin Media over their stop the broadband con campaign which Virgin released yesterday to try and encourage other broadband providers to not hide behind misleading headline speeds that users can't achieve. Virgin stand slightly apart from others in that they have a cable-modem network which allows users to always connect on the 'last mile' at the full line rate which is sold to them, whether it be 10meg, or 50meg broadband. This, however, doesn't mean that they will then receive this full speed right through to the Internet. Virgin have published what they call 'typical speeds' under their 'speed honesty' pledge for these products, as measured by Ofcom, which show users tend to get close to the maximum advertised speeds.

Every other major broadband provider in the UK uses DSL to provide the connection which is limited based on the length of the line from the telephone exchange. Only those who live closest will receive the fastest speeds that broadband providers offer. Unfortunately, Virgin forgot to point out that their National Broadband products, available to the 50% of the country who aren't connected to their cable-modem network, also suffer from exactly the same problems as everyone else. Virgin continue to market these products as 'up to' the maximum speeds and they haven't been quite so honest and released typical speeds for what these users receive, although Ofcom don't currently do testing for these products.

O2 are keen to point out that they have focused away from shouting about headline speeds and have themselves called for ISPs to provide better clarity around speeds. Their new products, which were launched in September, try and help consumers choose a product based on what they intend to do with their broadband service rather than how fast the product is.

"When we launched our new broadband packages in September we made it clear we wanted to ensure there was better clarity for consumers around speeds. We believe that packages should be designed around customers needs and not speeds. While speed is clearly important for customers it should not be the be all and end all. At O2 we believe that customers should be told, upfront, what they can expect but also that they should buy a package that suits their online activity. All our customers receive whatever line speed their line can handle.

It is extremely important that the broadband market is cleaned up so that customers look for the right experience, customer service and value for money when they buy – not just headline speeds."

Felix Geyr, (Head of Home and Broadband) O2

The approach O2 are taking is a much better way to help users choose the right package, and is something that Virgin could do well to learn from. Only the 'enthusiast' users really care what the underlying speed of their connection is, and the rest would be much better informed by knowing that it is suitable for watching iPlayer or just checking your e-mail and sharing the occasional photo with friends. Of course, this information can only really be given after you have provided your phone number, but the ASA could require providers to change the way they currently advertise their products so they are not using the speed as the main selling point, something that Virgin are one of the worst at doing (due to their speed advantages).


Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
perhaps broadband products should be named after animals, fruits, planets or something - there would be nothing to argue about then.
Posted by john (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Orange did that I think :P
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
I have to say i think that o2 are mis informing people, they changed their packages this year to introduce capping and shaping, both as i see it are not what the customer wants,and yes i think it only fair that any isp should provide the customer with upto date info on what speed their line will support,instead of quoting from the seriously outdated bt data base,
Posted by rizla over 6 years ago
No easy answers. Virgin have the raw speed in theory. Practice is another reality, as it is with most other providers - cable or ADSL.

The problem is that any "standard" metric of real-world speed would get abused by all ISPs. Most popular sites like this and others which offer reasonably reliable sites are prioritised by all ISPs - frequently at the detriment of other customers not running tests.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
Any average is broadly useless on a rate adaptive service as you can't see the performance wood for the line length trees.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
unlimited is only unlimited if there are no limits or fup's etc

fibre broadband is only fibre if fttp, otherwise all broadband might as well be called fibre, and mostn pstn calls as well.
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
sync/connection speed and thruput are different, they should state which they are selling a product by. no point paying for 40/50 meg if thruput is much lower than this for long periods
Posted by CaptainHulaHoop over 6 years ago
ofcom/ asa should have got things under control years ago. i fear it's too late now.
Posted by pdizzy over 6 years ago
I dont really see any problem. After all the further you are away from the telephone exchange I thought it would have been obvious that you would not get the quoted speed. On Jupiter the sun shines but being a long way from the sun you cannot expect the same warmth as here on Earth!!!!
Posted by pigfister over 6 years ago
o2 are a bunch of lying scum bags that lie to get you to sign on the line then steal your money as they fail to deliver an adequate service (ipstream), they turned their back on net neutrality and censor the web, their new 10gig allowance for £25pm is daylight robbery.

O2 advertised unlimited service, is limited more than most.
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
O2 have a good point there. Good to see at least one operator commenting on this silly publicity stunt.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
" Only the 'enthusiast' users really care what the underlying speed of their connection is, and the rest would be much better informed by knowing that it is suitable for watching iPlayer or just checking your e-mail and sharing the occasional photo with friends. " really? what planet did they just fall off, b/s
Posted by vorticella over 6 years ago
My 20Mb service from Virgin is currently running at 3Mb. That's an 86% loss of function!
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
The planet of not being a geek or caring about their connection so long as it does what they want it to Tommy. That would be the majority.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
Geek,lol i am one of those people who if paying for something wish to know that they are getting what they are paying for, speed as close to the advertised upto as is possible taking into account distance from exchange, and quality of that line, also throughput is important too as is latency,if these aren't satisfactory i'm gone
Posted by K9-70 over 6 years ago
Just upgraded to Virgin 20Mb, fast ? is it hell.
To get anywhere near that kind of speed, I have tto log on after midnight when the kiddies have gone to bed. At best, I'm lucky if get between 2Mb and 12Mb during the evening.
My previous 10Mb connection was even faster than this.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Ironic that Virgin have raised this issue when their throughput performance, based on these comments + those in the relevant forum, appears to worse than many ADSL service providers.

As per posts against the original story, I understand that existing cable customer will see their throughput performance degrade further as 100Mbps and 200Mbps services are introduced and contention on the shared coax gets worse.
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
to any that are still ignorant, the INTERNET is JUST like your nearby motorway...

Let me ask you, have a look at how many cars are there from around 4pm to 7pm... I would be very surprised if the answer is '2 or 3'... its usually 20 or 50, so almost not moving!!!
- now look at the *minor* roads, at the same time - if you have a good knowledge of these you can get home a lot quicker... :)

Just the same with ISPs.. everyone goes the simple, popular way, so traffic happens... the clever people use the small, low profile ISPs, so get little traffic congestion.. :)
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago

notice that the 'Top 10 By Subscriber Size' is totally different from 'Top 10 By user reviews'...
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
The problem is that our friendly local cable company has built its own "road network" before you getonto the Internet "motorway".

Based on various posts from others, it has a (sometimes) heavily contended shared coax segment to connect you to its street cabinets, as well as the more usual contended connection to the internet itself.
Posted by New_Londoner over 6 years ago
Its proposed ban on the use of the words "up to" in advertising implies that its customers do not suffer from speed degradation, when really all it wants to focus on is synch speed, which is meaningless as an indication of the user experience in terms of speed (throughput).
Posted by Dixinormous over 6 years ago
Yes Tommy most people don't care about how fast their connection is so long as its' performance isn't problematic.

They pay for a connection to use for specific things and aren't in the habit of speed testing it just to make sure they get what they think is the appropriate speed.

I know a few people who obsess over their speeds, they are a minority fortunately as most, including me, only ever check in case of issues. Better things to do like actually using the thing.
Posted by tommy45 over 6 years ago
Oh it get's used alright, plenty, but my point was that there is little point in paying for a service that is advertised as a upto 24 50 or 100mbps service if you are unable to get nowhere near that,and the same can be said if you fall foul of those isp's that simply put have more customers than available bandwidth,and use shaping traffic as the answer
Posted by otester over 6 years ago
Read reviews, find rough distance to exchange and read T&C's.

Ignorance is not an excuse.
Posted by SheepFarmer over 6 years ago
Ignorance is an excuse. If an advertisment is misleading, but only those with technical knowledge know the real picture, then it shouldn't be advertised in that way.

A headline figure of sync speed shouldn't be used to say "our connection is better than theirs" if the typical experience is actually worse. That's misleading.

In my limited experience of Virgin cable, however, I've found the connection to be reliable and consistent.
Posted by carlp16 over 6 years ago
Its easy really

TELL THE TRUTH and spend the money in upgrading and providing the infrastructure instead of putting it into the pockets of the bosses and thier huge bonuses.

If it says 20Mb Provide it, None of this UP TO crap.
Posted by Mikejc over 6 years ago
Just switched from BT to Virgin Media cable. BT 5MB on an up to 16 MB service (31% of advertised), 10GB cap, £15.99pm; VM 9.7MB on up to 10MB service (97% of advertised), no cap, £12.75pm.

So I almost double my speed, have no cap, and pay 20% less. Strikes me as a no brainer.

Can well undrstand why VM want to see a lot more honesty about the speed actually delivered.
Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago
no cap is wrong you do have a cap and once you reach it you will end up with about 3meg if your lucky so a no brainer was wrong to say
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Did we all forget the estimates given at sign up time, by ISP's and the small print about line length in the adverts etc?
Posted by SheepFarmer over 6 years ago
If they made the small print a little bigger and the headlines a little smaller than we might get a more accurate picture.
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
jamie543: are you on cable?? If so, I would ask exactly how much you download in a week...
it will tell you very esily.. I have d/l'd 18G since end oct in virgin cable..
Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago
im not on cable but i use quite a bit. It doesnt have to be just what you download. I watch a lot of iplayer and between my family we probably download between around 10 to 15gb a week. The thing with virgins limit is once you hit it its 75% of your speed gone for hours id rather have my solid 10megs with BE then a 20meg product with virgin
Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago proves my point i couldnt do 5 hours of being traffic shaped to hell just becuase i used 3GB. If Virgins fibre broadband is so great why the hell do they traffic shape it to 75% the answer is its not fantastic. To top it all the price is high without a phone £20.25 for 10mb Be's 24mb is like £17.88 with no traffic shaping
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
jamie543: many of the problems you get are from the basic nature of ADSL - it was never designed for the massive traffic these days.. and quality of the phone wires does not help, to say nothing about BT interfering and confusing things!!

If you use it enough why not spend a bit more on getting cable? they say its good, but they are NOT talking about ADSL using a BT line...:/

if its not available, then check out the reviews in ispreview... :)

Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago
Im not complaining about what i get from my bt phone line what im saying is Virgin is chatting crap on adverts they cant give you 10 or 20 megs all the time and throttle 75% when you reach 3gb on 10megs and 7gb on 20megs what i get with BE is a solid 10 Megs 24/7 with not shaping
Posted by alexatkinuk over 6 years ago
I agree that broadband advertising is misleading but Virgin have no right to be the one complaining.

There are plenty of people on 20Mbit Virgin who struggle to get decent speeds due to over-subscription, something that Virgin do not seem keen to fix.

Or an example like my friend who has 10Mbit cable but only gets 7Mbit max because they can't be bothered to replace his modem with one that can actually handle 10Mbit.

So who is misleading customers now then Virgin when you claim the average speed for my friend should be 9.37Mb?
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago

So what do you propose then???
- have virgin ask you:
"please can you leave virgin, so others can get higher speeds.."

"please can you pay much more for your service, so we can afford to buy more equipment to solve over-subscription"

I will bet the answer is no, with a rant that you pay too much...

And I bet your friend has not bothered to ask, or even offer to pay! My 10 Mb modem works fine at 10 Mb..

If you dont like that, go elsewhere, and find how much worse it can get...
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
just to prove, here is my speed.. (needed luch first! :) )
Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago
what alex was saying is true virgin did upgrade loads of customers connection but never replaced modems some customers still use set top boxes which can only provide 2mb so before you jump on your high horse do some research i had a massvise arugment as they would not give my friend a new modem when he was using his set top box in the end they agrreed to it but it was a lot of hassle. As for the over subscripbing dont take on more customers they you can handle on the street cabinet simple really
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
well at least you are not like the whiners here, that expect a lot for very little money...

Its up to you, join the queue behind 4 million VM customers - or go for one that is not so busy - BE has got good reviews on ispreview, but of course that still depends on how good your BT lines are... It will be few years until 20 Mb lines are out, BE has had that service since 2004!
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
Do note that companies get a **lot** of clueless whiners phoning,(at least not as much as BT, with their ads selling 20-year old technology as if it was new, hiding the real prices, and long contract lock in..) so it will be a struggle to get past this...

VM has its *own network* so they are a bit more expensive than most, and it did not help that when they took over NTL it was really one of the worst broken ones!!! I say it is still worth it, to avoid the BT mess...
Posted by comnut over 6 years ago
just a tip about customer support... dont get angry, just say you are leaving... that will wake them up, and get the 'free offers' flowing!!
Posted by jamie543 over 6 years ago
yes BE fee are wroth every penny just in the user forum alone always some one around to offer a suggestion. BE just need to stay focused and not go down the route of selling services to cheaply after all they have O2 who do that
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.