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Virgin Media launches new traffic management policy
Tuesday 16 April 2013 00:21:34 by Andrew Ferguson

Virgin Media has announced a fairly significant change to its traffic management policy, that will apply to customers who are on a broadband tier of 30 Mbps or faster. The simplest part of the new policy is that the old daytime period of 10am to 3pm has been abolished, additionally rather than being managed for a five hour period if you trigger the traffic management you might be managed for just hour.

New Virgin Media traffic management policy, with shorter throttling period.
(click image for larger version)

The level of throttling only recently dropped from 50% to 40%, so to see it drop again to 30% for the initial level of throttling means that the impact of the throttling will be less onerous and means that even on the 30 Mbps service there should be plenty of speed left to continue watching a six-hour epic film in HD streamed over services like Netflix or Lovefilm.

The two hour threshold may cause some confusion, but it works in that if you always download under 2750 MB (MegaBytes) in an hour on the 30 Mbps service the management will never occur, once the 1 hour window has been triggered (throttling you back to 21 Mbps) if you download another 750MB (total now 3500MB) in the next hour the two hour trigger kicks in and you are then throttled back to 18 Mbps for a duration of two hours. If your downloading continues at levels that will trigger the management again, then it is possible that during the traffic management window you won't see the reduction lifted.

The overall effect should be that those users who now trigger the management system by downloading for example a 3GB game from Xbox Live will still trigger the management, but the penalty will be lot shorter. For those that have queued up 100GB of downloads, then they may well feel the new system is worse. The new system appears to be aimed at the consistently heavy user, rather than those who download a lot just once a month and hardly use their upload capacity.

  XL30 XL60 XXL100 XXL120
Download speed with 30% reduction 21 Mbps 42 Mbps 70 Mbps 84 Mbps
Download speed with 40% reduction 18 Mbps 36 Mbps 60 Mbps 72 Mbps
Upload speed, 60% reduction 1.2 Mbps 1.2 Mbps 2 Mbps 4.8 Mbps
Upload speed, 75% reduction 0.75 Mbps 0.75 Mbps 1.25 Mbps 3 Mbps
Check main chart for details on L30, XXL60 and 100 service speed reduction levels.

We have not overlooked the upstream traffic management, the same one hour and two hour system applies, but compared to the old system the trigger levels are a lot lower. The new system will trigger with just 900 MB (around 200 high resolution digital camera images, or 9 minutes of HD footage uploaded to YouTube) of uploads on the XL 30 Mbps service and then reduce speeds by 60%, another 300MB of uploading in the following hour will see a 75% reduction kick in. The old upload traffic management only kicked in with 4200 MB of upload (though this was measured over a longer period), but resulted in a 75% reduction for a five hour period. Importantly the upload and download triggers are independent of each other, so you can be managed for your uploads, but still be downloading at the full connection speed.

The message is fairly clear, if you are someone who consistently uploads lots of data during peak times (an example is that with a 3Mbps upload, the maximum you can physically upload in an hour is 1350MB), consider doing this outside of peak times, or buy yourself a router that lets you implement your own Quality of Service controls to limit the impact of protocols such as peer to peer.

If you want to know more, we have some more examples over in the Virgin Media section of our user forums. A copy of the old traffic management policy has been preserved, so that you can check and compare what the changes actually are for your product tier.

Update 9am: Virgin Media has published the details on their own website now, those with a 30 Mbps or faster connection have the same detail as in this news article. Customers on legacy 5, 10 or 20 Mbps services should also check the changes, in particular the trigger amount between 5pm to 10pm for the 5 Mbps service is 250 MB downloaded after which speed is reduced by 75% for five hours. A smaller 100 MB trigger applies to upload traffic between 3pm to 8pm.


Posted by adslmax over 4 years ago
Not again. bloody Virgin Media! This is going to be lots worse. Right that's it, I am off to FTTC.
Posted by Zero967 over 4 years ago
I think the Traffic Management is OK, i don't see a problem with it to be honest and i am classed as a really heavy user downloading 300Gb/Month on 100 (soon to be up'ed to 120Mb)

I think should be an option for extra £ a month or so you can opt for decrease in limitation or pay to have it removed at a premium as this would allow for investment into network.
Posted by FirstNetServ2 over 4 years ago
You aint a heavy user. 300GB isnt alot. its about what the low end would use (i.e ppl who don't use it much).

Posted by pingtest2 over 4 years ago
Is that a 40% reduction of the already reduced speed, or a 40% reduction from the advertized "up to" speed?

I was told by VM staff that their new traffic management would be cumulative; halving and halving until you are down to dial-up speeds and the restrictions not lifting until you unplugged the modem and didn't use it for 5 hours.

This was give as the reason for my packet loss.
Posted by jalzoo over 4 years ago
I like Virginmedia.
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
Let us hope (some hope!) that they give as much prominence to the traffic cap as they do to the erroneous suggestion that their network is fibre to the house (as opposed to head end).
I think they should put their money where their mouth (advertising) is and come up with a robust network that can run at capacity, even if this is slower than the pointless headline figures currently quoted.

Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Do you know, if I were a potential Virgin customer I'd take one look at the chart and think, can I even be bothered to try to understand those tables? Then I'd sign up with Plusnet unlimited or similar. You've quoted a great example, download an Xbox live game and you've already hit threshold.
Posted by Joppy over 4 years ago
In this day and age where proper FTTC is available, why would anyone choose a second rate provider such as Virgin Media?
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
Looks like a PhD thesis rather than a policy aimed at a retail market
Posted by Lykaios over 4 years ago
Joppy, because FTTC cant give speeds at a distance from the cabinet. Even with the traffic management in place, i will still be downloading FASTER than FTTC can supply me.
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
I was chatting to a support guy at Plusnet recently and he said that the utilisation of their network had increased substantially above projections following their switch to unlimited and they were having to upgrade both capacity and also hardware to cope ... note work upgrade Virgin!
Posted by herdwick over 4 years ago
@Lykalos the Virgin traffic management limit can be exceeded by my 2.5 km ADSL line, FTTC would be well quicker - it's only ~6M for an hour.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@pingtest2 Check the smaller table in the article, I've done the maths for you.

So the 40% is a reduction from the advertised speed, not a 40% on top of the 30%.
Posted by KellyD over 4 years ago

Not exactly true. We've been adding bandwidth and hardware in line with our estimates. Always planning for more bandwidth! :)
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Exactly Joppy, before people didn't have a choice and would have to put up with a poor service. Not anymore
Posted by olisun over 4 years ago


The new traffic management rules are worse than the previous one especially the upload speed throttling...

Glad I am switching to Plusnet FTTC.. It can't be worse than VM...
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
I have no intention of naming names, but I stand by my comments above which reflect what I was told.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@olisun I think you may have confused yourself.

Believe KellyD works for Plusnet and was replying to a comment by Farrina saying that Plusnet was upgrading network, and perhaps Virgin Media need to too.
Posted by olisun over 4 years ago
lol... Then apologies if I got it mixed up...
Posted by bigbadpirate over 4 years ago
appalling service. does this mean customers can get out of contracts early? they are moving the goal posts right? and what about BT and pulsenet selling unlimited FTTC products are they able to do the same in future?
Posted by olisun over 4 years ago
I wouldn't worry about the future as FTTP seems to be slowly catching up and we don't know how many ISP's will make it to see the next day... ;-)
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
bigbadpirate, depends on whether you feel the changes are detrimental and you can get Virgin Media to agree to the exit.

Over last few months there have been numerous traffic management changes, this is the largest I believe.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@olisun FTTP will be many years in the UK from catching up to the same sort of footprint as Virgin Media, unless you are willing to spend £700 to £1500 to get it installed.
Posted by Phunky over 4 years ago
I for one like the more agressive caps on unloaders as it them who cripple the network for everyone else on their UBR.

Funny how my TBB Graph drastically dropped to the best i've seen in the last few years at midnight last night. Wonder if that's when this kicked in?

Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
Yeah but I don't think even FTTP is required to compete with Virgin to be honest. FTTC will do that for a lot of people. I'm still convinced most only want a good stable 20-30Mbps that can be used for gaming. FTTC fits that bill
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
I am glad I left now. It's the same as before but with extra kicks in the nuts per hour. And the evening STM is now 4-11!

RIP VM. I am glad I went back to Sky!
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
@olisun yes Kelly D works for Plusnet. Nice chap.
Posted by Dixinormous over 4 years ago
'Posted by FirstNetServ2 about 12 hours ago
You aint a heavy user. 300GB isnt alot. its about what the low end would use (i.e ppl who don't use it much).'

Luckily not the case; 300GB is a ton to most people, myself as a guy working in IT for the past 10 years included.

If 300GB/month were 'low' prices would be higher and unlimited packages probably pretty much non-existent or horribly contended.
Posted by Dixinormous over 4 years ago
'Posted by adslmax about 12 hours ago
Not again. bloody Virgin Media! This is going to be lots worse. Right that's it, I am off to FTTC.'

You forgot that you're on Plusnet and have been for the past couple of years, along with that FTTC isn't available to you yet, Max.
Posted by magicuk27 over 4 years ago
hurry up and give me my fttc cabinet.
Posted by AndrueC over 4 years ago
@FirstNetServ2: 300GB is not 'low-end'. That's quite high. 'Low-end' these days would be less than 30GB a month. Anything more than 100GB a month is quite high.
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago
my 2.4TB a month was off the chart then :/
Posted by weegiegeek over 4 years ago
VM's network is heavily oversubscribed in a lot of areas. Their forums are full of people complaining about speeds, packet loss and high pings.

They're obviously not willing to invest in the network (maybe that'll change now the buyout's been approved?), so the only way to alleviate the problem is to make people use it less.

Even when throttled, I'll still have faster speeds than any other ISP can give me here, so I don't mind really...
Posted by weegiegeek over 4 years ago
If I was a particularly heavy downloader (384GB/80GB so far this month), and I could get FTTx, I'd probably consider it, but I've setup an alert to check regularly if I've been STM'd, so I'll see if it actually bothers me, or if my usage patterns are compatible with it.
Posted by Zero967 over 4 years ago
@Dixinormous & @FirstNetServ2
I agree with "Dixinormous" over the fact that when i have spoken with VM in the past they said i was a 'Really Heavy User' and also 300Gb is a estimate, i probably do more than that with the HD content i download!
Posted by Zero967 over 4 years ago
And to all those people who are thinking jogg on VM and hello to likes of Plusnet, you do realise that they too do throttling to Peer-To-Peer nearly all the time not just time limits like with VM so its more or less a worser deal for that, also I am near Telewest's head end on a "busy" cable box and i get my full dose of 100Mb goodness nearly all the time averaging at about 88Mb at the slowest!
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
Plusnet changed its traffic management to remove the throttling when it did its big unlimited product launch.
Posted by Zero967 over 4 years ago
March 2013 i downloaded 684Gb up and down and thats NOT including STB's, Wireless devices such as tabs and mobiles as well as other pc's and laptops in the house so your probably talking over 800Gb in March 2013!!
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago

That's exactly how I thought.. Until I got that oh so lovely letter from VM
Posted by pcoventry76 over 4 years ago

P2P should be throttled all the time!. Or better still actually have the UK laws used and shut all the illegal sharers down!.

And before I get " oh but I do x distro" bullshit. If you were in the USA you'd be in jail for it.
Posted by WWWombat over 4 years ago
@FirstNetServ2 - 300GB is a huge amount.

Ofcom's infrastructure report 2012 shows that average download changed from 17GB to 23GB in 2012.

But that is an average. In fact, the bottom 50% of users only transferred 10% of the data (ie 5GB per month). The bottom 90% of users only transferred half the data (ie 13GB per month)

The top 10% of users transferred the other half - average 120GB per month.

So 300GB is way above the average, even within the top 10% of users!
Posted by td432 over 4 years ago
Whilst I certainly use more than average, I make the effort to do it out of peak hours. I was happy with their previous policies, even when they increased the evening time to 10pm. This however is the limit for me. Just ordered a new BT Infinity 2 service + line, cancelling VM as soon as BT is installed. 6.25gb limit till 40% throttle on 120mbps... no point in having such headline speeds. Rather have a constant 80mbps when I do use it.
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
My sister (and family) are 3 weeks into their plusnet contract. So far they have downloaded circa 64Gb and of that (according to plusnet) 90% is streaming by which I take to be iPlayer and the likes.

On the other hand I have not even hit double ignores for he whole month ...
Posted by JonasT over 4 years ago
Once again i find my self here reading the mixed reactions to another VM change of policy.

This will not affect me so much on the download side of things as i play more games than download, but as someone who uploads to youtube, game footage at 1080p videos anywhere from 500MB to 1.9GB at a time, this will affect me. I didnt sign up to this service, i signed up to VM100 UNLIMITED service, this is not UNLIMITED. I really hope that BT get their act together and install a cabinet soon
Posted by Lykaios over 4 years ago
@JonasT, it is unlimited...
Posted by farrina over 4 years ago
It is indeed unlimited provided you don't mind your connection being significantly throttled if you actually have the cheek to use it to its advertised capacity.
My other gripe is that Virgin's throttling makes no allowance for the occasional monster download.
Posted by GMAN99 over 4 years ago
I remember a few years back when they released 100Mbps as unlimited and everyone was cheering. I said then they'd impose limits at some point and they did and now they are becoming even more hampering.

Lykaios, of course it isn't unlimited if they impose a limit , tch...
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 4 years ago
@gman99 whether the new limits are more hampering depends very much on your personal usage. So some will gain, others will lose out.

Remember that the daytime period has now gone totally during the week.

Posted by chaz6 over 4 years ago
Clever move, Virgin. I strongly suspect this is realted to the ASA's recent ruling that "50%" was more than reasonable for advertising unlimited broadband. I expect they will have another go now.
Posted by chrysalis over 4 years ago
Considering that download speed isnt everything so that my old VM 30mbit conneciton had congestion, jitter, max upload speed of 2mbit, an average FTTC connection now days (which also isnt shaped/managed on sky/BT/plusnet) rips VM apart. VM only wins really if you only do bulk downloading and your xDSL sync is poor sub 10mbit.
Posted by drummerjohn over 4 years ago
So on a 60mbps product you can only get full throughput for 8 minutes before being throttled. Quality.

VMs charts are horrific. I can understand them but if I were to show my wife or parents they would just look bemused.
Posted by otester over 4 years ago
Better off with BTW FTTC, at least you can use what you can get even if it's a bit lower.
Posted by Zero967 over 4 years ago
@pcoventry76 More or less all of the data used their is to watch my Anime as its 500Mb Per episodes and in a week there can be over 50 Episodes, I hardly do any "torrenting" of any sorts any more as i have spotify premium and sky anytime!
Posted by fox-uk over 4 years ago
Anyone who can read a bus timetable should be capable of working out the hours affected. Aren't the comments about 'wives' and parents a bit sexist and ageist? (log tables in our day)
I don't think average users really know how to compare size and speed so will just notice when things go wrong.
BUT isn't it amazing that it takes an American takeover for Virgin to realise what category of users does all the P2P and overload the system?
I predict that come the school holidays they'll have to reintroduce the daytime reductions - did they even look at usage further back than a few months?
Posted by MacMuser over 4 years ago
I am on the 120mbps service. Most of the time, the servers I connect to can barely manage a tenth of this. Only Apple and Microsoft have consistently offered me a full 13MBps downloads, the rest stutter on at about 5MBps maximum or less.

What Virgin offer is bandwidth so that we can have our tablets, laptop, desktop and smartphones all getting a chunk of the 120mbps speed and it works very well.
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