New Virgin Media Traffic Management

Having recently upgraded to 60Mb broadband (for the sprightly sum of £3 less over the year!) I checked the traffic management policy for the new tear and found that the whole policy had been re-hashed.


I must say that I feel the new policy is very reasonable, and am reassured to see the company taking steps towards protecting network performance. Although more lenient on weekdays (4PM start), traffic management takes place between 11AM and 11PM on weekends and the magic number is 3600MB per day (approx. 3.5GB).

3.5GB of downloading is without a doubt a heavy user, although it would technically be possible to reach this in a little under 8 minutes with a 60 Mb connection. In order to need to download that much data you must surely be savvy enough to at least be aware networking terms, and so I suspect the concept of traffic management wouldn’t really come as a surprise.


The interesting thing is that I believe many people would not be aware if they had invoked traffic management, through watching Netflix for example. This is because hitting that 3.5GB cap reduces your connection speed by just 30%, still leaving you with a respectable download speed of 42 Mbps.


If you download another 900MB within the following hour, your download speed will be reduced by 40% to 36 Mbps for the next 2 hours, but this is the interesting bit: if you don’t download 900MB more then your download speed returns to 100% and all is forgiven. After all is forgiven, I’m not sure how much you can download before you enter traffic management again. In theory, the counters should be reset as you didn’t go into the 2 hour speed reduction but I suspect it is more likely that you can download a further 900MB before starting on a 1 hour slow down again.


A similar situation applies for uploading, but with harsher cuts – 900MB being the magic upload number, resulting in a 50% slow down (to 1.5 Mbps) then a further 300MB triggers a 65% slow down to 1.1 Mbps.


If you are happy to put up with a 36 Mbps download or 1.1 Mbps upload speeds, you can do what you like, for as long as you like (within reason, I’m sure there will be ‘fair usage’ small print in the contract somewhere)!


Let’s put it this way, I watched Netflix for what we shall call ‘a long time’ (ok it was a big chunk of a day) and had no idea I was being traffic managed until I did a speed test and saw the connection max out at the enforced limit.


Compare that to the monthly usage caps and traffic management of Sky and BT, which are either totally none existent (caps) or much harsher (traffic management) things don’t seem so bad.



Recently abandoned traffic management (throttling they call it). This is not good news. In my opinion, it is an admission that the network can’t handle the demands placed on it by its customers, allow me to elaborate…

If you traffic manage, or throttle connections, this means that your network has to be able to support number of people utilising their connection at the throttled rate. If it can’t support this then you can’t traffic manage, so why not knock the policy on the head and try to put some positive PR spin on it?

Data Caps: 

There aren’t any. Do what you want, BT doesn’t care if you constantly download at the maximum your connection can handle, bringing your neighbourhood’s connections to a crawl whilst you have your fun. They may eventually utilise their inevitably present fair usage policy, but this is not likely, and far from immediate.

One of the main comparable broadband packages (Infinity Opt. 1) has a 40GB monthly cap, after which you will be charged £5 extra per GB. This ‘option’ is not a directly comparable package to virgin media’s broadband tiers (up to 38 Mbps for BT vs. 30 Mbps for Virgin). Nevertheless, I am making the comparison between Infinity Opt. 1 and Virgin Media’s 30 Mbps package, which has equivalent monthly ‘usage’ of 80GB (2750MB per day * 30) and things don’t add up. You are not charged £5 extra per GB after your 80 Mbps with Virgin, you are just slowed down!


That is of course also an ‘up to 38 Mbps’ from BT. At present, they seem to still be getting away with ‘up to’ being anything above 0.3 Mbps.


I was attempting to avoid ranting but having read this statement on the BT website pertaining to Virgin Media’s (old) traffic management policy, that’s gone out of the window.

Virgin Media may slow users by up to 75% at peak times. Your experience would suffer if you watched more than 1 HD movie streamed online during peak times. [Emphasis mine.]

The cap which you would have to have invoked under the previous traffic management policy during peak times is 3GB. Which streaming service offers HD quality with individual file sizes totalling over 3GB!? This would have to be a video stream at over 3 Mbps for a 2 hour film, or a film longer than 2 hours in order to get to a total size of pver 3GB. That simply does not / can not happen in streaming media – a 3 Mbps constant connection speed to play each second of video. It certainly wouldn’t happen on most BT connections I am aware of.


Much of a muchness, non specific traffic management policy but they will only send you an email if you are on a capped package and go over your cap. If you impact other users they will impose unspecified slow downs to your connection.

Remember, this is the same technology and same copper as BT use so as they so carefully state that connection speeds may vary due to location. They also use the term ‘line speed’ at points in the T&C, which is worrying as this is the theoretical maximum speed if you were the only broadband customer and ignores network loading.

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