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back to article Virgin Media calls foul on web speed testers

Virgin Media believes it is being shafted by comparison sites offering ISP speed checks, and has called on them to improve their techniques ahead of the launch of its 50Mbit/s upgrade. Switching sites are becoming an increasingly powerful force in the near-saturated broadband market. uSwitch recently said the tightening of …

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One method

Would be to start with a small file, and then work up to, say, a 20mb file to give a better idea of how the line works in reality.

If a file takes too long to transfer then stop the testing there.

I for one welcome a 50Mbit/s service, since I am on the 20Mbit/s one atm.

Just in time for some Christmas downloading then :-)

ttfn

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Anonymous Coward

Technical Difficulties...

How strange

They currentl have some "Technical Difficulties" going on with the speed thing...

Timing, anyone?

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Law
Flame

Excellent...

Well what I will do is, take my laptop around to my friends house at 7pm, and download a hd film of about 40gb.... then bring the laptop home to my 16mb adsl and do the same... I assume I will hit the virgin media cap early on and have my nntp traffic slowed to dialup speeds, while my £10 Sky uncapped 16mb connection will be done in a fraction of the speed.

Virgin suck... if they want to be the fastest, stop slowing people down when they use the advertised speed for more than a few minutes.

PS - used to be with Be... but Sky are so cheap, in these dark economic times I had to give them a try, and they are pretty awesome so far.

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Joke

Virgin Media....

No doubt during the downloading of the small file used their atrocious STM will kick in and throttle the speed test results.

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Missed the point?

When I load a website - I have ALOT of small files coming towards me - lots of small images, banners, little flash annimations etc - I want those fast.

When I'm playing a game online, I want the response to be almost instant - I dont want to be running along happily only to find I was shot dead 5 seconds ago.

Virgins complaint is only relevant for large file downloads (patches, movies etc), the speed comparison sites are still relevant using their current testing techniques for everyday surfing / playing games online.

I for one would welcome a low ping over fast throughput anytime.

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Web speed testers inaccurate ? I've never seen an accurate one.

I've tried a few of these website speed testers and I've never seen one, other than the direct BT Wholesale one, which gives a result consistent with a timed download in a download manager.

I go to site, choose the download test, and they pretty much always tell me I have round about 200 -250 KB/S download speed. Immediately I finish the test I download a large file in a download manager and it gives somewhere between 650 and 750 KB/S, when the rest of the internet is quiet of course. I can even get this when the test and the file download are from the same site, thinkbroadband.com has a Java speedtester and have files available for download, 200 - 250 KB/S on the tester, 650 - 750 KB/S for the file.

Granted my download manager can make multiple connections to the server, but then so can my browser.

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Go

"start small and work up"

Start with a small transfer and then use a bigger one for the real test, based on how fast the "trial run" was? You mean like the speedtester at thinkbroadband.com has done for years?

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest.html

Personally I also like www.numion.com because you can see how you did the last few times, you can see how others have been doing recently, you can see a plot of data transferred vs time and look at how smooth it is (or isn't), and they've even got a pseudo-browsing test as well as a bulk transfer test, so you can get yourself an objective measure of how "snappy" your service is after you turn interleaving off (or whatever floats your boat).

But lots of others seem to like daft things that pretend to be car rev counters and other Clarkseon-stylee stuff.

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Well...

My 20MB Virgin line came up as 19.1MB on speedtest.net so can't complain there. My previous BT 8MB came up as 2.6MB...

Look forward to an extra 30 meg!!!

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What a load of ...

Of the reasons why I left Virgin, which include their intention to use phorm, their throttling of VPN and Skype connections (and torrents), one thing that really got my goat was the fact that they open the pipes when you try to do a speed test on any of the main ADSL speed checkers, yet squeeze them back down with regular browsing.

That kind of behaviour is so cynical it's untrue. I'll never use them again.

Can we have a Richard Branson with horns icon please?

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Yay we can get capped quicker

I for one welcome a 50Mbit/s service, since I am on the 20Mbit/s one atm.

Just in time for some Christmas downloading then :-)<<<<<

Means we get capped a lot quicker lol

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Linux

50Mb/s ...

... as long as you're not dumb enough to actually use it.

If it really does go that fast, you'll be able to exceed your undisclosed acceptable usage limit within about 2 minutes of peak-time activity, probably by carrying out a speed-test, such as this one. You will then be rate limited down to 80kb/s for the rest of your life, or that week, whichever is shorter.

Anyway, as Virgin saw fit to steal from me that which I paid for, I jumped ship and have been using Enta for the past month, via UKFSN. Virgin can go and get fscked.

fnord

----

Penguins, cos UKFSN pay them to write free code for us, or something like that.

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Speed tests.

I have no problems with my 10Mbps VM line.

But just to point out the problems with speed tests here are some examples of why you can't always trust them:

Speedtest.net:

Default node for me is Maidenhead, 9764kbps down, 481kbps up, ping 27ms

Paris node, 9788kbps, 477kbps up, ping 85ms.

Surely Paris should be slower?

However the results from thinkbroadband.com (top of the list for google uk only results) only reports 9205kbps.

I have seen tests that report only 3500kbps.

There are so many things that affect link throughput that need to be taken into account that it is impossible to take speed test sites at face value.

Also as links get past the 10Mbps mark the TCP window size becomes increasingly important, especially to servers with high ping times. The default values are wrong on Win2K and XP for high bandwidth / high latency lines. (Don't care about vista).

I used to work with satellite IP links and we used to get complaints from customers about lack of bandwidth when they tested it from a single PC, after talking them through changing the TCP window size they usually shut up as they saw a vast improvement in their figures without us doing anything to the service.

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Happy

@Paul Murphy

> Would be to start with a small file, and then work up to, say, a 20mb file to give a better idea of how the line works in reality.

Which is exactly what the Speed Tester on ThinkBroadband does!

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest.html

Tick the Detailed Output box before clicking on the Start button. It downloads then uploads a 0.19 MB file, thence deciding what size larger files should be for download and upload. For my 10 Mbps/0.5Mbps cable line, the sizes are usually about 20-25 MB and 1.25 MB, respectively.

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Ke
Stop

What's the point if you can't use it?

I rather stick to my 24meg Be line - atleast I know I will be able to use it without the constant threat of disconnection. Somebody has to call foul on them advertising a service that you can't actually use what you pay for.

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What I don't understand

... is why (with Virgin Media over cable) a file download is throttled to death under IE7 but runs at full speed under Firefox.

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Stop

@fnordianslip

Do you mean these "undisclosed" download limits?

http://allyours.virginmedia.com/html/internet/traffic.html

With the current 20Mb/s service, after 3Gb of peak use you're throttled back to 5Mb/s. Which is hardly "dialup speed", given that it's a shedload faster than most "up to 8Mb/s" ADSL services are to start with.

Do be more careful with your lying in future.

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re. ThinkBroadband speedtest

AC wrote re. ThinkBroadband:

"Tick the Detailed Output box before clicking on the Start button. It downloads then uploads a 0.19 MB file, thence deciding what size larger files should be for download and upload."

Just tried that -- it downloaded a 5.7MB file and uploaded a 1.1MB one and informed me that I'm getting 5.3Mb/s from my 10Mb/s connection.

Shame that I get around 9.3Mb/s every time I download from n***gr**ps!

VM could presumably help matters by hosting a Speednet server within the VM network?

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Avi
Joke

Presumably an increase in speedtest accuracy

will be met with a similar one in the accuracy of VM's ads?

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Flame

Virgin 50Mbit?

Lets see - that's just over double the 20MBit I allegedly have now, so I guess I might maybe get 7Mbit in reality.

Seriously - every test I do comes back at around 4Mbit - see for yourself:

http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/results/id/122365509381741622657.html

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manipulative b'stards

It's amazing how traffic to speedtesters on their network seems to get prioritised, but all of my other traffic around the same time is barely moving above dial up rate for downloads and is even more pitiful for uploads.

PS: No, I'm not on about P2P, I've actually got a lot of stuff to post up on an ebay shop, but what should have been ten minutes of uploading has taken hours.

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yep left VM for sky ages ago and they have been good.

But wouldn't it be better for VM to work with Ofcom to help create a standardised speed test.

Then at least everyone is measured against the same stick and we may even get to a point where the advertising will have to stop its lies and false promises.

I know Ofcom have sucked for ages on this unlimited and fair-usage bollocks which would not be allowed in other industries, but a standard test would at least give grounds for legal action.

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Flame

hmmm

When I was in the UK, I had VirginMedia broadband in Sutton. I was allegedly on the 20Mb package after having been "upgraded" from the 10Mb. I never EVER saw anything like 20Mb speed - hell I had WORSE performance than the 10Mb! The most I ever got out of the 20Mb was about 1MB/sec whereas the 10Mb I could get up 1.6MB/sec. Online speed testers all reported back very low results no matter what time of day or night and heaven forbid should I have multiple downloads going... :(

As fnordianslip said; with the pokey 3GB/day "limit" or whatever it is now, on 50MB you will use it up within so much faster and then be capped making it largely accademic saying that they have a 50MB connection when you cannot effectively use it.

When will broadband companies learn that limits of <150GB/month are worthless? I am prepared to accept a "fair-use" policy, as long as it is in the realms of being sensible. 30GB or 15GB / month is not "fair-use" - neither is the 60GB that I get from Cogeco. I would use over 60GB re-installing my main PC thanks in part to the size of games.

*grrrrr*

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Flame

Of course!

This explains everything I thought Virgin Media was just a crap ISP that spent more on celebrity adverts than on half decent infrastructure but no its the speed testers fault. How can we have been so blind....

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Anonymous Coward

Never mind the speedtests

Just have a look round at all the complaints about VM's service. By all accounts (and from personal experience) it shouldnt be referred to as 'throttling', slamming on the brakes would be more apt. Nothing would ever make me suffer a VM connection again. Oh and how the hell do they get away with advertising the service as fibre ? Low grade co-ax is NOT fibre.

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@What I don't understand

Don't you believe it. I'm a FF user & my d/ls slow to a crawl sometimes being unusable at peak times. (this with the 10Mb connection)

Even worse, after accessing Usenet for any length of time, my connection is dropped completely leaving me to down power the modem and router to re-establish the connection AND I pay £25 pm for the privilege.

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Anonymous Coward

50Mb Dial-Up?

From previous experience of these jokers it'll be syncing up at 50Mb, but the actual browsing speeds will nearer 56k. Never, ever again will I use them. I had 4 good years with Telewest, then the worst 18 months I've ever had. Doesn't help I live in the area they test all the traffic shaping, throttling etc. These days I'm a happy BT & O2 customer, and TBFH I would say from experience that AOL has a better broadband product than Virgin. 50Mb? right until you hit your FUP of 10Mb between the hours of 7am and 630am

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Coat

RE: What's the point if you can't use it?

I'm currently in the process of persuading my landlord to ditch the Virgin connection so that I can get Be in. I'd been with Be for the last few years and moving into a house with Virgin already installed was a worry from the start for me. I was only surprised at how much worse the service was than I'd thought it could be.

Get my coat pic, because in this case it's an accurate portrait of Virgin riffling through my wallet in my coat pocket.

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bandwidth

I get almost a full 20Mbps from Virgin at any time of day. So does every one of my mates who is on the same service. But then afaik we were all on NTL pre-Virgin so it's possible that some parts of the network are better than others. I can't wait for the 50MBit upgrade :)

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Pirate

All these methods are BS

TCP speed is dependant on bandwidth delay product.

With the current cable latencies there is no way in hell for the speed to saturate the line. The TCP window cannot open enough before latency induced "stupor" kicks in. Same is valid for DSL. With the average rtt of 35ms+ on BT DSL the maximum single stream speed is around 3-4Mbit.

It will take at least 7-8 parallel streams to get a good measurement and most measurement services do not use that.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Stop

Not Buying It...

I'm sitting on a university network, on a friday evening, and I get my speed reported as 87.8MB/s...

Something tells me Virgin are blowing some hot air into their happy-capping service...

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Stop

Just leave Virgin Media

If you or your children sign up to Webwise on your internet connection, what you or they do on your computer will be spied on to try to work out what you are interested in. You and your children will then get lots of adverts trying to sell you things they think you might want to buy. By signing up you agree to let them do this.

They will be in there like a bearded rat up a drainpipe if they have the chance.

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Getting worse

I'm one of the "lucky" people to be upgraded from 4Mb to 10Mb a few weeks ago, since the upgrade I've recieved an average speed of 2.5Mb!

It's worse now than it's ever been!

Everything VM say is pretty much downright lies IMV.

Customer service is abysmal, and the price is becomming increasingly hard to justify.

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@Iain

Lying huh?

Extract from virgin media email entitled "Important news about your broadband service" below:

---

How this affects you

We’ll be moderating the internet use on your account during peak times for the rest of this week (until Sunday night).

This means that from 4pm to midnight from Monday to Friday, and 10am to midnight on Saturday and Sunday your broadband service will be reduced from up to 8Mb to 80kbps (that’s just faster than a dial-up connection).

During these times you might want to stagger your use, so that you’re not doing everything in one go. Outside of these times, you’ll be able to use your service as normal, with speeds of up to 8Mb. If you’d like to find out a bit more about why we do this just click here.

---

Suck my quote.

fnord

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Pirate

@ AlMac

The uploading issue isn't necessarily to do with the throttling\capping of the line, more likely to do with the pitiful upload speeds that they have on their lines.

Even when they move to 50Mb, the upload speed will be so low that it is all but imossible anyone will actually get that speed due to the traffic overheads.

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Flame

50MB/s don't make me laugh

I had Virgin/NTHell and it was ALWAYS slow. The download speed was just about acceptable, but the upload speed was a paltry 128KB/s.

Apart from that , they port-block, traffic-shape, and generally piss about.

Don't even bother asking for a static ip.

About the only thing I can think of that was good , is that if you are in a cabled area then you don't have to have a BT line to get broadband.

When I went over to O2 broadband I was amazed, that although the line speed was only advertised as twice as fast as what I was allegedly getting from Virgin-on-the-ridiculous-NTHell, it was in fact around about 6 times faster.

Don't get me started on Billing, I don't think I ever once received the correct bill from the NTHell-Virgin muppets.

The billing department is completely disconnected from the installations department.

Once I was going to get NTHell installed (before I finally went insane and did get it connected), and then cancelled, only to be billed for about 5 months. I phoned them up and cancelled, and eventually my bank refunded the direct debits. Some months later I had a letter from a debt collection agency threatening to take me to court for payment for a service I had never had.

Virgin-NTHell are one supremely useless bunch of retards, BT and O2 shine like beacons of brilliance against their incompetence, and anyone that believes that they are likely to deliver a 50MBs service reliably, and charge you the correct money, should go and seek psychiatric help for delusions immediately.

The real crime is , they actually do currently have the best "final-connection" to many homes. It just ashame the organisation, and back-bone is so piss-poor that the "final-connection" is unlikely to be properly utilized. By the time they get it sorted out sometime in 20 years, BT might have wired us up with fibre-optics.

I could write another essay about over-heating-nthell-cable-tv boxes.....

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Multiple TCP/IP connections

Just install FDM(free download manager) and watch your TCP download speeds soar.

Your router might have a problem though.

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Anonymous Coward

Wasn't Virgin Cool Once

I don't think they have the right people in their tech division.

Branson needs to go down there and mix it up a bit - perhaps he could employ someone who will don a pair of suspenders and do a can can on top of the servers.

Virgin should be fun, innovative, it should go the extra mile, that is what the brand use to mean. Get fibre laid, Branson, stick it to the man one more time, and let's see this cyber future heralded in.

But, nowadays they just spin out the same old tripe that the other big ISPs spin out.

Find a small ISP is the answer at the mo.

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Ex VM Customer

When I was, I always had the top BB package, so was on the 20Mb connection before jumping ship. Always used speedtest.net, as I wanted to not only know the speed I was getting, but get a historic comparison of the speeds. When it first went to 20Mb, I could get a reading around that mark, however over time this diminished to between 11 and 12Mb. This sort of dl speed was also mirrored in the speed for any actual file download.

Switched to Be* on the pro package and get close to 20Mb down and 2.2Mb up on the speedetst and on the modem sync rates, which is also mirrored in the actual speeds I get.

You couldn't pay me to go back to VM.

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+1 Positive experience

In defence of VM (their internet service at least - I've had 4 V+ TV boxes this year grrrr) after reconfiguring my PC as per the VM instructions and replacing my cheap router with a Belkin I would regularly get 19.xMb in multiple different tests at different times of day, More importantly I also got real world performance that matched that (for example downloading unix ISOs, PS3 demos etc - all multiple GB files)

I didn't get that real world speed from every site I visited, and I never got that speed over wireless but I'm happy with the service. I'm only posting to balance out some of the criticism here.

No doubt peoples experiences will vary, but for me in west London once I had done the sensible things of isolating where my problems lay and removing the bottle necks my end, was and am happy.

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Paris Hilton

Virgin on the ridiculous

Oh poor poor Virgin!

The speed checkers are dire! We are so hard done by! Stop the world we want to get off.

The speedtesters (Online) are a crock of shit always have been and always will. None of them are true reflections of speed the only way to do it reasonably well is to download a series of files usually from a number of geographical locations that are UK based sites, European, pacific rim etc. and keep an eye on the speeds.

That's the old way of doing it but still the best.

Virgin like others put out false and misleading adverts that try and entice "The gullible" (and lets face it they have a lot to target) by suggesting they are the fastest and the cheapest. They don't tell you that they traffic shape you, that it depends on geographical location and saturation points as to whether or not you will get good bad or crap service delending on load. They use these comparison websites and then advertise how wonderful they are and many believe it but don't realise these ISP's on there pay to be featured.

It's all a con to get your money and Ofcom and the ASA should be doing something about it.

It's not just Virgin either just look at places like broadband choices, utwits and the others - these people should be taken to task for their misleading rubbish.

At least Paris doesn't hide the fact!Virgin don't like speedtesters online because it shows them up for what they are inaccurate or not.

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bring back the old blueyonder days

Virgin media in my view are awful now. 4 years ago i would have said blueyonder where the best ISP i had ever used.

I do not use the internet as heavily as i did 2-3 years ago, i no longer torrent all the time, my downloading now consists of an occassional tv episode, or an iso image or two.

what makes me believe virgin are awful is their lack of understanding of how the publics use of the internet is changing. I am on the 10mb service, which has the 1GB cap put in place between 4-9pm. which means if i use my "super fast fibre optic" broadband at its full capacity for 15 minutes during this time i am restricted. its pointless going to the 20mb service as the "extended" 3GB limit will also be hit again in 15 minutes.

as i said, i dont use the internet as heavily as i used to, however i do own an xbox360 and a ps3, these are everyday common devices with internet services. the 360 offers the ability to download hi-def movies, if i was to get home at 6pm and kick off the download of a hi-def movie (around 4GB) at 10mb this would take a little under an hour, however after 15 minutes tha cap kicks in and the download would take 4 hours. more devices in the future will offer more services and virgin are failing to recognise this and driving a once excellent service into the ground.

they will probably give the 50mb users a 6GB cap so you get super fast fibre optic broadband for the first 15 minutes, then you get switched to the super buggy "gateway timeout" capped service for 5 hours.

sorry virgin, i used to sing your praises, now i too will be leaving. its not about your capping affecting torrent users, as i said, i dont do that anymore, its becasue your service has failed to recognise the demands now of the average user, the bandwidth consumption of the average home is going to sky rocket in the next few years and the draconian limits you are applying are stifling. well done on flushing a formerly great service down the pan

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E
Stop

Pipe is fatter than many servers

If it has not been said already... even if your pipe can sustain 50 Mb/s signal rate - call it ~48 Mb/s max data rate, not a lot of internet hosts can fill that pipe.

A decent test should download several large files in parallel from different servers who's aggregate bandwidth is known to exceed 50 Mb/s. Else the bottleneck is not the ISP service it is the internet servers.

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VIRGIN ARE A SCAM

They're complaining about speedtests not being accurate enough for their customers when they could easily set up their own speedtest. only they don't want to do that because we could all see just how crap a 20MB connection really is with Virgin when it suffers from STM.

I left Virgin because they are intent on selling broadband but have no intention of telling the customer about STM. they just do these kind of scams where they put the blame on everybody else except themselves.

Virgin and cable broadband are quickly being over taken by ADSL. cable was supposed to be the future but it's rapidly becomming the past.

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MU
Unhappy

Virgin service down?

We've been down since our service was "upgraded" Thursday, Oct 9th. Nobody has a clue when we might be back up. One tech told us not to expect anything before Thursday, Oct 16th.

I asked why it we couldn't get through to technical support for hours, and he told me that "thousands had been disconnected" when Virgin migrated from one type of switching technology to another.

Apparently there is a third party company doing work for Virgin in BT premisis, and it's turned into a dogs dinner.

We're in E1 - anyone else impacted?

In any case, Virgin should get the basics right before trying to deploy more advanced stff.

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Gates Horns

Easier way to prove speed...

Hi

I know FULL well that Virgin throttle my speed several for hours each day. All I need to prove this is to start downloading a linux iso and watch the speed be throttled down by 75%!! after about 35 - 45 minutes.

I reckon that there should be a gov't speed-check site.

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jon

we need a GREED test.... :(

Shaddup all you whingers!!! I think you need to find out the REAL cost of transferring data!!

you will be shocked to find it is in the 3 figure range... your moans are just like a pedant who gets caviar for 'only £2' and then moans that it is not the best quality! - to do that you have to spend much more...

speed tests can always be wrong, if they 'just load a file' - it is like trying to test the max speed of a supercar on a motorway, at rush hour!! - this is why *motorways* have a CAP!! - this is why the POLICE will fine you, or even stop you, for going at excessive speed, without care for other users, and also why no-one has yet built a motor way with *10* lanes each way!!! :D

If speed is really important for you, why not get your own T3 line??? YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!

Proper tests will use a special server (like testing a super car on a private race track) - and so avoid most of the congestion by **all** the other PCs using the net...

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jon

example of some tests...

http://www.speedtest.net/ can use any server *in the world* for this, and give the most accurate speed and ping - it regularly gives me 8 to 10 M on my VM cable line..

http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest - is the worst! on the SAME line, only a minute or two later, http://www.dslreports.com/speedtest?flash=1

gives a massive *seven* servers, from NJ to florida....

and it seems to think my speed is about 1.3 Meg... :/ (SF)

- and yes, I tested with speedtest.net, SF server, got 4 Meg!!

It shows how things can be affected...

-

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jon

To iain podger ..

I think you will find the ONLY way to get your massive downloads, is to change to a much smaller ISP... and hope that it or its 'parent' (check http://www.ispreview.co.uk for who ) does not get TOO big, so it has to limit its output, due to too many people using a limited resource - yes, it may be 'limited' to thousands of terabytes, but divide that by the number of users, and it starts getting small.. :(

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Flame

@fnord

Nice quote - shame its for the ADSL service. Cluefest: this article is about the cable service...

As for the people claiming they get throttled to "dialup" speeds- since when was dialup speed 5,000 Kpbs?

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