back to article BT and Virgin Media to report broadband slowdown

Newspaper and City knives are being sharpened for the UK's two biggest internet providers this week. Our major infrastructure owners, BT and Virgin Media, are set to release disappointing results at a watershed moment for broadband. Virgin will be put in the stocks first, on Wednesday. It's expected to reveal more customer …

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Flame

Sort out delivery and people will buy it

Isn't it just the end of the second phase of the introduction of broadband?

First off no-one has much use for it, then it becomes cheap enough for almost 60% to want it (or believe they can't live without it), next is the wait for it work properly.

Having worked in broadband with BT until about a year ago there are a few things that hold up delivery.

There's no point in trying to get broadband 5 miles from an exchange up a farm track with aluminium cables, it also plays up when cable joints get a bit iffy and line capacitance changes (acts as a filter - the phone works but not broadband) and maybe the biggest drawback -- and it seems to apply to just about all ISP's -- the complete and utter inability of middle management to locate their fundamental orifices using military spec GPS and just play point-scoring off each other. While that's going on there's no progress in getting the other two sorted.

BT have had many, many reshuffles since broadband was introduced - trouble is that each time that happens there's money spent on reorganisation but very, very little left for making the product better.

There aren't many ISP's, it seems, that don't put the shareholders before the product.

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Flame

lol

I was at my mates this weekend, he and his missus moved into a house and bought a new line along with bt broadband (if I'd of known this two months ago I'd have laughed at them and informed them of the error of their way)

They had an activation date of the 2nd of october.

The stuff came, the day arrived, there was no broadband.

Several weeks of "you have broadband" "no we don't" "O no - you don't - now you have broadband" they finally cancel it.

A week later and Tim phones whilst I'm there getting drunk. Tim says that my mates broadband is up and running! Amazing my mates wife asks "Are you joking?" Now according to their records they actually had a cancelation date of the second of october and a start date of the 3rd of november. Impressive on a brand new line, and somewhat at odds of what the letter said. Suffice to say BT was talking shit again.

Anyway my mates missus phones the contract types and customer service types an hour or so later nobody at BT knows if my mate has a contract, they say another company already has the line, and I think possibly that pigs can fly.

Suffice to say at the end of the day I hook up their bt gear with their bt password and blow me down they have BT Broadband, a month late, a week after it's been cancelled and spot ontime according to Tim. Anyway after an hour the connection dies, we assume they diactivated the account, but no, an hour later it reappears (and for an 8meg connection damn it's slower then my 512k connection) anyway the connection is fine, next day the connection is dead, then it is working, then it is dead, then it is working, then it is fine.

I laughed at them. This is similar to my Mother who has spent hour after hour after hour on the phone to BT with BT going yes it all works, no it doesn't, yes it does no it doesn't.

Blah - neither of those companies deserve business.

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Support costs

Have BT and Virgin ever considered that useless and expensive (1UKP per minute!) support just may be the reason that people just migrate rather than spend beteen 5 and 10UKP to let thier ISP know they have buggered things up every week.

Yes virgin *are* dropping cablemodems in my area every weekend which initialy caused a lot of support calls. I and others managed to convince lots of peeps to move provider instead::-)

Like many ISPs BTworld and NTHell^WVirgin are both 'no support' services - when they stop working you drop them and move elsewhere. Surely the marketing folks *know* people would not put up with zero/expensive support for only a short period before going elsewhere.

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It's because Bradband is becoming useless again

It used to be that broadband was fast and unlimited (or near enough). Now you have ToS that change, restrictions on what when and how much you can download from your unlimited net and service fuckups that are the same for ALL providers (so much for voting with your wallet).

So with all providers being bastards, the only vote you can do in the broadband scene is to vote out of it and go dialup. OK, so 56k doesn't cut it any more, but block images, javascript and movies and you get as much internet as you're allowed (unless you're running Windows Media Player, IE6 and XP SP2, in which case you are allowed to view the content because they can make damn sure you can't do anything other than consume). And for places with caps, it drops you down slow enough that the difference between broadband and dialup is minimal.

Or, lets say you stay with them. Because you may not be on the Windows Blessed Path you can't view much of the legal media out there. Your provider won't let you at the illegal media and there's only so much porn you can watch before it all starts getting samey. So now what do you need broadband for? Hmmm.

And what's with the ISP ToS saying shit like "5.6(a) You also agree not to use our network for illegal acts"? Uh, if I'm doing illegal stuff, I'm already breaking the law. "breaking contract" is over egging the pudding isn't it?

So you can't use 8Mb connection unless you go "Max" which costs a shedload, all other are severely capped (2Gb a month I've seen, I've seen GPRS cheaper!) and all the providers as as crappy as each other.

No wonder people aren't paying any more.

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No surprise

Having had experiance of both Virgin nee NTL-Telewest nee Telewest and BT I can't say it's much of a surprise.

Virgin

Virgin can't seem to fix a problem which has existed with my TV service for 2 YEARS, they are now saying it's my problem as aparently I own the cable from the road to my box (news to me considering Telewest fitted it) and wont do anything about it until I've paid for someone (not Virgin, they wont do it) to replace the cable.

Unfortunately where I am I can't get a Sky dish, although it V+ service is technically far better than Sky+ or Sky+HD (Cheaper than Sky+HD as well) I suspect I'd have less trouble with Sky.

One thing I'll say about Virgin, apart from the stupid upload speed of 256k on a 4mb line their cable broadband is top notch for a home user. Over the 4 years I've had it installed it's only ever gone down about once a year and only for a short while. They even give you an ethernet modem but even better it's actually a 4mb line unlike LIEdsl's "Up to 8mb".

Message to Virgin, get you're customer service right and get rid of that bloody vapid, idiotic yank you use to advertise (Ruby EarWax) and you could even make a go of this whole sucess thing.

BT

Well what can I say about a company that can't even manage to connect a phone line within a resonable amount of time, they took 4 months to connect my father's phone line. Their temporary fix of forwarding all the calls for the landline number to his mobile was a help until you consider there's no mobile reception in the house!

As for BT's ADSL (At my gf's) - The Hell Hub is about the worst lump of excriment I have ever had the misfortune to use and their "up to 8mb" service is, on a good day, clocking in at about 512k both up and down but hey, people should be jealious I can say I've actually got SDSL!

Message to BT - Give up on bloody Indian call centres, crap internet technologies and actually invest in some network upgrades and engineers.

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Unhappy

Virgin need new infrastructure, not new customers

Judging by my 40% packet loss using their broadband at peak times (which they acknowledge is an issue at their end but have done bugger all about it), I think the last thing virgin need is new customers.

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Happy

BT

At a customers site the other day let's just say BT cocked up massively but I couldn't help laughing my head off at the fact that even BT engineers have to call India and wait in a queue too!

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Unhappy

Not Surprising

Hardly surprising that they are suffering a slow down when that's exactly what their customers suffer - a service which is consistently diminished rather than improved.

A great way to retain customers or win new ones.

Ofcom anyone?

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Anonymous Coward

"Ofcom anyone?"

Surely you're joking?

What have Ofcom ever done to help progress in the UK broadband market ?

They have provided jobs for lots of ex-NTL senior folk, though I'm not sure that helps Joe Public.

A properly regulated BT monopoly could, at least on paper, have offered better service than today's "let's have 4 sets of unnecessarily duplicated/competing kit in every LLU-enabled exchange and 4 sets of unnecessarily duplicated/competing national networks from every LLU exchange, while the LLU ISPs compete to see who can offer the worst service at the lowest profit margin, and sod the folks in places where the LLU cherry-pickers aren't interested".

BT and competitors seem to manage to coexist peacefully and successfully with phone service, why should broadband be any different (apart from the technical trivia :))?

But no, we don't get a properly regulated monopoly, and we don't get a satisfactory free/fair market either. That's Ofcom for you.

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IT Angle

Virgin Media...

... Made a huge mistake bring in traffic shaping and making it effect everyone. They should of stuck to the old Telewest way of doing things with UK technical support that was top notch, and fast reliable speeds!

2MB @ £18 is expensive

4MB @ £25 is also expensive

Increase these downloads, and a fair upload and get tech support in the UK and Virgin Media will be half way there. Hopefully the new CEO can see that?

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IT Angle

FWD: Virgin Media

20MB(o rly?!) @ £38 is also expensive

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Thumb Down

They need bigger tubes.

Quite a lot of people do live close enough to the exchange to get 8Mb - at least they get 8Mb from the exchange. Then contention kicks in and they try to put way too many 8Mbs worth of data down their 155Mbit ATM links.

High contention ratios were fine before streaming video and P2P but it's creaking under the strain now.

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Anonymous Coward

How does STM work?

I mean that seriously.

At times when I cannot surf satisfactorily (or at all, or even access my email), if I can manage to reach a site offering a bandwidth test I find my connection to my ISP's (Virgin or TalkTalk) often does give result close to the 4Meg/8Meg that I pay for. Therefore all the 'damage' is done either at or after the ISP, randomly and indescriminately.

Both my ISP's are thoroughly are unpredictable and unreliable now and offer a service inappropriate to this day and age and, in particular far worse than ever before, completely unrelated to my usage or even to the time of day.

Someone needs to get a grip.

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Thumb Up

No problems with Virgin here

I dunno where you guys live*, but I would like to say that in Leeds and the surrounding area Virgin/NTL has been top-notch for the last 3 years. By that I mean that my connection has been incredibly stable, nearly always full-speed, and the one and only downtime I experienced was scheduled.

However, I have moved house a fair few times and getting reconnected is usually less-than-trivial. I have no CD drive so I have to use the (secret) autoreg system, and they never leave a PIN.

I would (and have) refuse to live in a house, regardless of conditions, if it wasn't in a cable area.

*Virgin is known to be very regional in terms of quality

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Virgin Media do Internet?

Because I was stupid enough to sign up for them, thinking "they can't be that bad" - They were. Like Gavin I was getting 40% packet loss during peak times, sometimes even off-peak. Pages would frequently fail to load on the first, second, or third attempt (Mashing F5 until it finally loaded got old fast) - Download speeds were appauling, we're talking a MAX of 30kb/s, with more typical speeds between 10kb/s and 15kb/s. Of course, streaming just didn't work, online gaming was pointless, for about a month I might as well have had no internet.

I told Virgin about it (25p/min "Tech Support", that's just pathetic and inexcusable), they told me to run BT speed tests. I couldn't even get on the site to run them for about 2 hours. Eventually I ran a few, which apparently never even got recorded. They said they wouldn't even acknowledge a fault unless they could SEE the speed test results.

Ultimately I gave up. I've been given the run around with too many companies to go down the route of arguing with them, so I just cancelled and demanded my MAC code. Which took 6 days to get to me. Despite the fact some ISPs can generate it over the Phone. They say I'll probably be charged £50 for leaving so early, but I don't care. AFAIK it's paying a ransom fee to break away from them.

I have now moved over to BeThere and suddenly I have the internet again! If this experience has taught me one thing it's that Virgin Media are one of the worst ISPs out there and to NEVER disregard hundreds of poor reviews for an ISP, assuming it will be ok in your area.

Ah well, you live and learn.

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Stop

Premium Broadband

As a VM customer, I can say that if their broadband business is the jewel in their crown, they're seriously screwed.

They've managed to decimate a service that worked flawlessly for several years, in several months. It's now a shadow of it's former self.

The notion that broadband is Virgins' ace card is laughable.

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Virgin sacrifice?

I'm with Virgin, (and have been with Telewest before that), and I'd agree with the other posters that the broadband service *IS* pretty damn reliable and fast enough for me (disclaimer: in *my* area, ymmv). I'd also agree that 4-6 hours per year outage is my experience. On that basis, I'd quite happily recommend them. And compared to the TV service, the broadband definitely is "the jewel in the crown".

Downside is that the glitches have become more frequent! Last time, my modem mysteriously needed to be retuned, at least the Asian guy on the phone was helpful and got the problem resolved, (took two calls, total length about 15-20 minutes).

The alternative? Unfortunately is ADistinctlySlowLine, and according to BT my max speed is 0.5Mb/s which given the deal is £14pm means that I'd be playing 50% of my current VM cost for 12.5% of the speed - not a good deal by any means!

New guy at Virgin? - here's my advice. First sack the NTL seatwarmers you've got in management. Then spend some dosh on the broadband infrastructure. As to UK call centres, I'm not bothered as long as I can get someone that isn't reading (badly!) from a script, oh, and it's not going to cost me £1/min. It'd also be nice to get the TV's programme guide sorted, as having to reboot the TV box every 2-3 weeks when it stops working is a little vexatious!

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Keep it Simple (Virgin) stupid !

We all know that the Broadband rates are not what they are cracked up to be ... and every Provider is trying to do a bit of everything. Therefore why do not Virgin and even BT open the "honest Joe " proceedure and focus on a single point of Excellence [ do one thing really well] ; there is so much confusion and over supply of poorly managed conglomerates, that the Keep it SIMPLE mind set would be so refreshing as to take the market by Storm and encourage the not so tech savy Danglers to get involved and lose their Virgin-ity !

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Unhappy

My Tale Of Woe

I was happy with virgin broadband until it stopped working one day

A call to that goddam indian call centre where I was told maintenance on the line, be fixed soon sir. For seven days I got the same excuse, and then I rang their cancellations department...

Can I ask why you want to cancel, yes my connection hasn't worked for 7 days due to maintenance....tap.tap.tap, what maintenance sir, the maintenance your call centre told me every day for the last week.

Oh I'm really sorry about that sir...tap.tap.tap....try that, and it worked again.

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I HATE BT!!!!

Otelo are the complaints ombudsman and their phone message has for months said to allow extra time when complaining about BT because of the huge volume of complaints about them.

Is this because:

- BT bill 40% more than they quote

- BT double charge - and deny that they are doing it in the face of documentary evidence

- BT charge when they are not providing a service

- BT demand payment of money they're not entitled to , and make threats when they don't get it

- BT issue faulty and out of date software

- BT issue faulty documentation

- BT's call centre staff can barely speak english

- BT's call centre staff know nothing about the technology they are supposed to be supporting

- if you ask for minor account change you get all sorts of other unasked changes and have to spend ages sorting them out

- the people who promise to sort things out don't have the power to make it happen

- BT lie as a matter of course

- BT generate a huge chunk of profit from customers paying for calls to try and sort out problems created by BT

- BT, untrustworthy when it comes to billing, expect you to allow them to take money from your bank account by direct debit, and want to charge you if you have more sense than to give them the opportunity to grab money they're not entitled to.

And that's just their business practices. Then there's the advertised 8 meg speed which turns out to be a maximum of 5.5 if you're lucky.

BT don't deserve to have ANY customers

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Eight goals and every one frozen

The worst of it is the telly, without a doubt. Eight goals last night, and every one frozen or blacked out as the striker let fly.

Yes, Cable London used to be a great service. And their support was marvellous. But those days are gone.

Judging by the postings here, they're not coming back any time soon.

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