Virgin Media is having problems in UK - now fixed
Identifying outages when large chunks of the UK appear to be still online for a provider is not straightforward, but looking at the data we have since 5pm on 27th April 2020 for Virgin Media there appears to be people both offline based on social media responses and a higher than usual number of people running speed tests.
The speed test volume was perfectly normal until the 6pm analysis ran, suggesting things were probably ok prior to 5pm. The actual average download, upload figures are actually the second best day in the last ninety days at this time. This raises the possibility that services are coming back and people are seeing normal speeds. Another option is that unlike with some service issues at Virgin Media that have impacted our results other routes through Virgin Media and out to the wider Internet may be affected.
Our theory at this time is the outage/issue is affecting mainly central London and some, but not all of the surrounding area.
We did try to see what service status message is showing for the provider on its own pages, but the postcode lookup was failing for a number of attempts.
We will check in with our monitoring as the evening progresses and provide updates.
Update 27/04/2020 20:00: Virgin Media have been in touch to advise they are investigating the issue:
"We're currently investigating an intermittent broadband issue that lasted for a very short period of time earlier this evening. While services are currently back up and running, our teams are looking into the problem and will work flat out to fix it. We apologise for any inconvenience caused."Virgin Media spokesperson
Update 27/04/2020 20:25:The ping monitor graphs show 3 blocks of fully dropped packets at around 5:15pm 6:15pm and 7:15 pm. We have waited a few minutes to post this update to see if it occurs again but nothing so far. Average speeds and latency remain fine from the tests we are seeing.
Update 27/04/2020 21:24: Another outage seems to be happening, if the pattern of the previous outages continues probably all be back in 5 to 10 minutes.
Update 27/04/2020 22:21 No sign of an outage this time. It also looks like it is not just Virgin Media affected, Liberty Global in Ireland and Netherlands are seeing reports of problems at the time same times. A ping monitor graph shows the three outages so far this evening - this is a snap shot image so will not update.
Update 27/04/2020 23:22 Outage is happening as we type this update.
Update 28/04/2020 09:45 A statement from Virgin Media declaring issue fixed and copy of BQM graph covering the period of the issue.
An intermittent broadband issue that started yesterday evening was fixed in the early hours of this morning. This was not caused by increased usage or a lack of capacity. We know how frustrating this was for customers and we sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.Virgin Media spokesperson
As you can see there was the pattern of five outages at approx 17 minutes past the hour then a few minutes after minute a shorter outage. Around 3am and 4am there was too spikes of packet loss with higher latency.
The statement from Virgin Media unfortunately does not give any clue as to what the issue was, but the problem was not confined to the UK, other Liberty Global operations in Europe such as Ireland, Netherlands, Poland and Romania were also affected.
While it is difficult to get a brand new line installed for those that two or more fixed line options at this time, those who worked from home prior to the COVID-19 pandemic or are planning to do so now should consider doing so to guard against other outages. Having a work line and house line into the property also means you can avoid in house battles when someone saturates the download or upload impacting on others. Some firms may be willing to pay for the second line or savings from not travelling to work can help pay for it, as a general rule you want to be using different providers and different technologies where possible.
Given the popularity of full fibre no doubt some will use this problem as an example of why the old UK copper networks are not fit for purpose. In this case the outage was nothing to do with the DOCSIS infrastructure that forms the Virgin Media local loop. The fact that mobile data and access to parts of the network from outside Virgin Media was breaking highlights the core nature of the issue.
What this does highlight though is if the UK had one national broadband provider the sort of impact if a previously unknown bug/problem/attack was to occur. Disruption for 5 million broadband customers while far from ideal is better than disruption to 24 million connections.
Update 28/04/2020 11:13: We did ask Virgin Media for more detail so that people can be reassured that the problem is truly fixed and also give the technical readers some idea of what went wrong, but beyond saying the technical fault has been fixed nothing else is forthcoming. We know that while admitting the cause of faults can sometimes be embarrasing or be covered by confidentiality clauses with suppliers letting the wider broadband community know is often useful as practices can be changed to ensure that the same does not happen at other providers, or extra caution be taken when changing hardware/software in the core network.