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Virgin Media told off by ASA over buffering claims
Wednesday 03 October 2012 10:01:16 by Andrew Ferguson

After a few weeks without any complaints, the broadband industry is once more back in the dock at the ASA. This time it is Virgin Media and a TV advert that had David Tennant destroying a buffering symbol with a baseball bat and the claim ""Now from Virgin Media, you could say goodbye to buffering with superfast fibre-optic broadband".

18 consumers complained about the advert, with the common theme that the advert was misleading as they understood users would still experience buffering. The evidence presented by Virgin Media seems to revolve around the Ofcom speed data and testing by Virgin Media themselves, which apparently show that on the slowest product they sell currently (30 Mbps) no customer received download speeds of less than 15 Mbps. This is of course several times faster than the accepted speed that most Internet video requires to stream which is 1.5 Mbps to 4 Mbps, though this speed is rising and even today YouTube is hosting 4K videos.

Virgin Media when creating the advert believed the use of the word could was enough to cover the times when things like the consumers home network was the source of the buffering, and of course the ability for the server serving the video stream to cope with the level of demand. Alas the ASA has not seen the situation in the same manner and has upheld the complaints, particularly as the destruction of the buffering symbol visually suggested the complete removal of buffering.

The 4K trailer appears to stream at a rate of around 24 Mbps when played in original quality, but very few people have a monitor that will display it at its native resolution. The 1080p version streams after an initial buffering at around 5 Mbps, the 1080p version offers a good image but not as crisp as the 4K version even when viewed on a 1920x1200 monitor, due to the higher bit rate producing less compression artifacts.


Posted by Spectre_01 over 5 years ago
Wow, not sure I agree with the ASA's logic on this one. Virgin are advertising an internet connection product, nothing really to do with the customers own network, computer equipment or that of the random website they are trying to stream videos off. I guess if Virgin want to advertise they better say "this connection is AWESOME... if you experience buffering its YOU!"
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
its got everything to do with VM if they sell you an upto 30mb package then thats what you should get if they cant supply more than 10mb (as per most cases in the southwest) then they should only be charging customers for the lower tier. You cant advertise that a product does a certain thing when it clearly doesnt, That would be like me selling you a car and telling you it does 200mph but not giving you the engine in order for it to achieve the said speed.
Posted by LT38 over 5 years ago
Ive had their 30mb service for the last few years and had nothing but trouble and I have not been able to watch a whole programe on bbc player netflixs,lovefilm or crackle without it buffering and spoiling the programe or film and yet next door who are now on BT can watch all the above without issue
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Repeat of

The issue is that retail customers can experience buffering using the sort of sites they use, even though the bandwidth required is less than 2Mbits/s in most cases.

This isn't a speedtest that lasts 5 seconds, run at night, it's a sustained use test at peak hours and the reality is the buffering is experienced - so you can't advertise that it isn't !
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
oops - was what I meant
Posted by thefluffys over 5 years ago
My VM line has just been upgraded according to their email from 10Mbps to 30Mbps. MY line used to do a very nice steady 10Mbps. Now it varies between 7JMbps and 13Mbps following the change. A backward step I think. And yes, there is still buffering . . .
Posted by pingtest2 over 5 years ago
>no customer received download speeds of less than 15 Mbps

They have loads of customers still on old legacy tiers of 10Mb and below.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
That they sell currently - careful use of words before bold bit.
Posted by Joppy over 5 years ago
My buffering problems with videos is caused by....VM. Congested UBR means packetloss all the time/buffering video and the September fix date just got pushed back yet another 3 months!

Wonder what percentage of adverts VM get a lousy slap on the wrist for?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 5 years ago
Latest version of the factsheet includes a page on the complaints issue.
Posted by roughbeast over 5 years ago
Perhaps I am lucky. Since being with VM I haven't seen a buffering symbol. Perhaps I am on a particularly good connection latency never higher than 20Ms, jitter usually at 0, never above 1 and always getting 104Mb on most speed tests. Even on TBB tests I never get below 94Mb.
Perhaps my kit is part of the reason for my good performance. Perhaps VM should not be held accountable for poor performance when customers own home arrangements degrade the potential performance. I think the ASA is wrong.
Posted by roughbeast over 5 years ago
A friend of mine was having trouble with his VM connection. His PC could never get a speed test above 10Mb on a 60Mb VM connection. He never got uninterrupted video. So, I visited him with my superdooper laptop.
With a wired connection direct to his superhub I got test results never below 61Mb and no buffering, even streaming at 1080.
How many of the complaints ISPs get are because of crappy home kit with processors that cannot handle Flash-based. VM can't be held responsible for that. They could include a disclaimer. "Goodbye to buffering unless you have crappy kit."
Posted by JonasT over 5 years ago
Im a VM customer, i have constant issues with my 100Mbit service, youtube, iplayer and other videos buffer constantly throughout playback. My PC is new, ethernet connected to a 300Mbits router. Although my speed tests show 90-105Mbits, RAW speed does not reflect the overall stability of the connection, all computers/devices connected to the network suffer the same issue, Ive tested directly to the SuperHub and it is no better. The issue lies with the superhub, use connection for more that emails get severe problems. The USER should define acceptable not the company, who quote KPI as an excuse
Posted by JonasT over 5 years ago
Sorry the last comment was abridged to fit. To clarify, The SUPERHUB + HIGH USAGE area = Terrible connection stability. Your lucky if you have 100Meg service and dont have issues, i know 3 people with 100meg and get the same issues as me, and they are not local to where i live.
Posted by Kaufhof over 5 years ago
There has been no flooding in Leicester for many months. Of course, if they mean large puddles and lots of sludge, that's another matter but it doesn't stop the utilities seen as possibly lethal (Gas).
Posted by garethley over 5 years ago
As a current customer on 10Mb,early this year we were promised an upgrade to 20Mb by July 2012. This mysteriously changed to December to March 2013 a few months ago. Whether this will change again is anyone's guess? I can tell you that I frequently get buffering on my Broadband. There are some parts of the day when I can't use BBC i Player or Lovefilm because there isn't sufficient bandwidth (Lovefilm claim that 2.5Mb is sufficient for their service). I get the impression that Virgin are deliberately dragging their heels on the upgrade so that people will move to their 30Mb service.
Posted by davrob36 over 5 years ago
I originally was on Virgin National Broadband and changed to Virgin cable (30MB)in June this year as I was having this buffering problem on IPlayer through my Humax when on "high quality".But unfortunately I am still having the same problem - have contacted all concerns ie. Humax,Virgin & BBC iPlayer who have given me certain remedies of which non have cured the problem so know having to watch iPlayer with poor picture quality. To my mind the problem lies with Virgin thou nobody owns up to the fact. HELP!
Posted by machanch over 5 years ago
I am new to VM 30 MB service and so far I am happy with it speed is good both my son, daughter and myself can watch streaming video iPlayer , YouTube etc. with no problems of buffering. So I am very happy with the service.
The only issue I have experienced, is the hub locking up on 2 occasions, both in the last 10 days. When that happens I am unable to access it,or browser the internet so I have to power reset, (2 months now).
Posted by davrob36 over 5 years ago
Yes I agree machanch I am very pleased with the system overhaul except with this buffering fault. Please note this is on a Freesat system through the Humax HD receiver and only distorts when operated on the "high quality" reproduction.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
do a story on VM overload of peering, every night for the past week or 2 on all VM graphs I am seeing huge latency jumps.
Posted by davrob36 over 5 years ago
Well now BBC Watchdog has bought it to public notice will VM do anything about it. I have expressed my concerns to VM Forum and it appears be a general problem along with the VERY POOR Wifi reception from the Superhub when away from the four walls where the Superhub is installed. Come on VM sort it out!!
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