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.
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.
|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|
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.