back to article Virgin Media staves off cable punter seepage

Virgin Media told the City this morning that it lost 14,700 cable punters during its second quarter ended 30 June. But the telco said this figure is far fewer than 36,000 customers who scarpered from the company in the same three-month period a year ago. All of which means that Virgin Media is pleased with itself. The ISP …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Disappointing service

    The Virgin Tivo service is a joke. 10-15 seconds to scroll through items on the on demand menu and 2 seconds to change the channel. The internet comes to s standstill every other evening too. We've had the engineer out twice to check it twice but all he can say is that this is perfectly normal. It's no wonder people are deserting. We would too, if it wasn't for the hassle of ripping up the floor and changing our emails.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      if it wasn't for the hassle of...changing our emails

      This is why you NEVER use an service provider email or web hosting service.

      1. dotdavid

        Re: if it wasn't for the hassle of...changing our emails

        Agreed. But if you *do* use a service provider's email, you could always set up a gmail account or whatever and set it up to check the provide email using POP. I set this up in Gmail for my inlaws who previously used Sky's email service - almost three years since they moved broadband provider and Sky have yet to close their email accounts.

        Granted Gmail could be shut down but I find that unlikely, at least while email is still in use. But if you're feeling paranoid you could always buy your own domain for redirection of email to whatever account you're currently using.

        1. Andy Fletcher

          Re: if it wasn't for the hassle of...changing our emails

          What are you talking about? How you pick it up is irrelevant once you no longer have access to the service.

          Do people (other than luddites like me) even use e-mail anymore anyway?

        2. Jock in a Frock
          Thumb Up

          Sky Email For Life

          @ dotdavid - Sky don't terminate your email account when you leave them :

          I've been using it for about 4 years after leaving Sky.

      2. leexgx

        Re: if it wasn't for the hassle of...changing our emails

        i completely agree on the issue with the lame packet loss or high ping, cant play BF3 as ping Jitter at times so take 2 steps forward get bounced back 1 step or i cant move at all as i end back where i was

        this is my street on all DOCSIS 3 (super hubs) all info is live with (20mb Blue cable modem DOCSIS 2 norm is ok 99% over 30 days so results for most of the time are below 30-70 ping with no packet loss, apart from when i posted this as last month never seen it hit 140ping before)


        funny thing is we are not talking about virgin media email here you do know its google mail that Virgin use (there is some VM stuff in there but thats just the login bit)

        same for Sky as well accept Sky made an balls work of it when moving over to google sky mail and thought it be an good idea to change the Name of the pop3 and SMTP server to something like from (and they Black-holed the old mail server so users who have had sky for long time was getting no server error {that must of made call waiting times on the call center go up as Most users ignored the email that was telling them to update mail settigns} when all they had to do was just Point the mail MX? to google like Virginmedia did)

    2. Fuzzy Duck

      Re: Disappointing service

      we were having the slow jerky menus issue. so i turned the box off and off at the back, waited the standard minute and it was much quicker when i re-started it.....

  2. dotdavid

    "But the telco said this figure is far fewer than 36,000 customers who scarpered from the company in the same three-month period a year ago"

    The spokesperson went on to explain "We did this by tricking helping our customers by telling them they could have a free HD box, and then once they'd received their box and started using it pointing out that the terms and conditions say that the 'HD activation' actually tied them into another 12 month contract", before commencing an extended bout of diabolical laughter.

    However when asked, the spokesman was less convinced about Virgin's current strategy being viable in the near future. "I think we might need to scam encourage our customers to take out 18 or 24 month contracts in the future, by bumping the price of the 12 month contracts well up. This should help with customer retentions for the next couple of years at least."

    "We might also be able to pull a fast one by changing the price of the contract mid term, citing some crap about inflation" they added thoughfully.

  3. Jop

    The next quarter will be worse

    VM used the double speed advertising to retain some customers who were thinking about leaving for BT Infinity or Sky Fibre. Those customers have just found out that the July completion date has been moved to October to December or 'after the Olympics' as one VM staff put it.

    As the original Upload speed upgrade took 18 months after advertising to be implemented in some areas (including mine), you get used to VM changing the date when the last revised date gets closer.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The next quarter will be worse

      Yep ... my date has changed from Oct 2012 (bad enough!) to August 2013!

      That's a scam!

      1. britsurfer1

        Re: The next quarter will be worse

        So you're complaining because something you are getting for free is taking a little longer than expected? If you prefer you can go to Sky or BT and pay for the doubled speed.

        1. Tatsky
          Thumb Down

          Re: The next quarter will be worse

          No, the complaint is (and this happened to me) is when threatening to leave, or rather just stating that you wish to terminate your contract, VM used the double speed as a carrot. In my case, they told me this was happening in July 2012. I have now checked the status to see what is happening and it has been put back to December 2012 - May 2013.

          I don't care which rule book you go by, that's a bit underhand.

        2. Jop

          Re: The next quarter will be worse

          "So you're complaining because something you are getting for free is taking a little longer than expected? If you prefer you can go to Sky or BT and pay for the doubled speed."

          Only stupid customers would see it as a free upgrade. More enlightened users would see it as matching the costs and service that other isp's are offering. Although VM still fail by a long way with the upload speeds.

          My VM contract is cancelled, I am one of the lucky escapees :)

        3. Neill Mitchell

          Re: The next quarter will be worse

          "So you're complaining because something you are getting for free is taking a little longer than expected? If you prefer you can go to Sky or BT and pay for the doubled speed."

          It was certainly not free. They hiked everybody's bill scant weeks after the glossy ad campaign started running. It was pure a marketing scam to cover up the imminent price hike. The 2nd price increase in less than 9 months. I didn't need or ask for my 30Mb to be doubled to 60Mb (FFS who really needs 60Mb?) and I certainly didn't need another price hike. Multiplied over 12 months it is a substantial sum.

          The thing is they know they have got you. BT's TV offering is a joke and Virgin have been very clever to massage the various complete package prices to make taking partial service more expensive.

          1. Neill Mitchell

            Re: The next quarter will be worse

            LOL, I always get one down vote when I highlight Virgin price increases. Obviously one Virgin employee who religiously scans The Register forums out there.

    2. Studley

      Re: The next quarter will be worse

      Same here. As recently as last month, it was advertised as "August". It's now "between December 2012 and May 2013", which is about the same as saying "fuck knows".

    3. dotdavid

      Re: The next quarter will be worse

      Of course people in my area can get a speed upgrade right now - by getting a new contract with them. It's obvious which customers they care about (hint: new ones).

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The next quarter will be worse

      My date for double speed upgrade was June-July, and indeed end of June was when it happened. However I now have a 'super' hub which should be renamed to something less flattering.

  4. mrh2

    TiVo sales helped/forced...

    by removing the V+HD from sale, forcing anyone new VM customers who wanted to record TV to take a box that still lacks a number of basic features.

    It's going to get its arse kicked by YouView which most of the offers same headline features but works with any ISP, & will offer content (at a cost) from Sky Atlantic and Sky Movies. Whereas Sky have content to flog on YV, Virgin will have to watch while the new boy eats their lunch.

    1. britsurfer1

      Re: TiVo sales helped/forced...

      I admit that TiVo could have been better but YouView? If you seriously think YouView is better than the TiVo box that 'lacks a number of basic features' you will be very disappointed. I know for a fact that YouView removed a lot of it's good features to rush it to market. At this point, it's just an expensive PVR.

      1. mrh2

        Re: TiVo sales helped/forced...

        I think YouView will be more popular.

        It's a free choice (as in there are other recording options available) and the ability to access Sky content on a per film or TV series basis will be a massive driver in home which previously eschewed subs-based pay TV.

        The fact you can buy a simple & single box and move it between BT and TalkTalk (the launch ISP partners) without having another box installed or to learn will also make it popular.

        And while YV may have removed apps, it launches with a working EPG (TiVo didn't, the data was dire on launch) YV are masters of their own software updates unlike VM.

        In any event, Ofcom have shown that the majority of Smart TVs are used for catch-up services move all else and YV is built around catch-up and cost star less than a Smart TV.

        When it sells and then outsells TiVo I'll let you pop back and doff your cap at me :-)

        1. Neill Mitchell

          @mrh2 Re: TiVo sales helped/forced...

          "I think YouView will be more popular."

          You have seen the YouView channel list right?

          "When it sells and then outsells TiVo I'll let you pop back and doff your cap at me :-)"

          See above.

          1. mrh2

            Re: @mrh2 TiVo sales helped/forced...

            >> You have seen the YouView channel list right?

            Yes, it's Freeview with added IPTV content in the shape of Sky's NOW TV plus other, to be announced but I know who some are, content providers. Given Freeview is the biggest of the UK's TV platforms it's a little odd you think the channel list will hamper YV's take-up.

            The box is £50 more than a decent Freeview only PVR, why would people buy yesterday's technology when a tiny amount more will get them tomorrow's?

            Rest assured, Sky aren't bringing their movies, sports and entertainment channels (unlike VM, YV is getting Sky Atlantic content via NOW TV) to the platform because they think it'll flop.

  5. Rob

    Year-on-year, VM's overall cable customer base remained flat at 4.8 million subs...

    ... but then it would be flat if they aren't going to roll out the network nationwide. They should be investing more money in rolling it out around the country but I think they are probably far too late to the game now for that to make a difference to their business anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Year-on-year, VM's overall cable customer base remained flat at 4.8 million subs...

      They shouldn't have to roll out any cable. They should be allowed to use all existing cabling (phone lines).

      You wouldn't change your electric supplier if they had to rewire your house, so why do we need to do the same to change broadband?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Year-on-year, VM's overall cable customer base remained flat at 4.8 million subs...

        >They shouldn't have to roll out any cable. They should be allowed to use all existing cabling (phone lines).

        Actually VM ARE allowed to use existing cabling, as an Openreach engineer I quite often install lines where the service provider is Virgin. Now try getting TalkTalk or BT etc.over the VM network.......

      2. Rob

        Re: Year-on-year, VM's overall cable customer base remained flat at 4.8 million subs...

        I think the point is in the title where it says "... overall cable customer base..." note the word cable.

        If my electricity provider was using a different system that required unique cables then yes I would expect them to re-wire my house. In this case I'm talking about someone rewiring the street with cable.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    They won't keep anyone in Huntingdon / St Neots much longer!

    Despite claiming perfect service for the last 4 days the broadband service used by thousands of people in the Huntingdon and St Neots areas has been suffering a 100% outage since Friday night. VM's customer service drones (what is the Urdu for drone?) go through the script and then invent a fix time. I've had 5 fix times so far and counting. 11pm last night was 100% totally sincerely and definitely guaranteed ... the sincerity failed to reactivate my service though!

    1. Colin Brett

      Re: They won't keep anyone in Huntingdon / St Neots much longer!


      Do you know what I was told? The delay over the weekend was caused by a bees nest in the exchange (or whichever garden shed they store their gear). Fumigators were called to gas the nest, then VM engineers weren't allowed on site to fix the dodgy kit because the bees might be aggressive and there would be a risk of them attacking the engineers. Health and Safety and all that.

      After several days of outage, the service was restored just before 11:00 am this morning.

      Nuke icon because Grrrrrr!


      1. Danny 14

        Re: They won't keep anyone in Huntingdon / St Neots much longer!

        aggressive bees? spray them with sugar water. Keeps em happy for hours on end.

  7. Tony Carter-Inman

    More churn/losses to come...

    I wonder how many they'll lose when their customers realise the 'promised' speed doubling in July is now not going to be started until Dec '12 to May '13?

    I was in the process of choosing between BT & Virgin earlier in the year and only settled on Virgin because the salesman told me of an impending connection speed doubling - otherwise I would have gone with BT for a similar price.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: More churn/losses to come...

      Oddly enough, I had a Sky rep knocking on my door the other day trying to get me to switch from VM based on the impending upgrade of the local exchange to BT Infinity and I could get 40Mb/s "soon".

      He neglected to say "up to".

      He neglected to say that the region may well be being upgraded in general, but my local exchange is /not/ on the BT list for upgrades.

  8. PyLETS

    No competition in Coventry currently.

    Where I live, going back to ADSL would involve a 90% speed cut and Virgin's cable internet is pretty reliable. When Infinity FTTC is available locally I will look at the 2 offerings very carefully, but until then BT offer no realistic competition.

    1. pPPPP

      Re: No competition in Coventry currently.

      That's the bigget problem. There is no competition. There is only one cable provider for the majority of people. The only alternative is ADSL or 3G, both of which are inevitably slower. Hence there is no competition and VM can charge what they like because we don't have anyone properly regulating the industry.

  9. EddieD

    I'm surprised that they're still going.

    In the 16 years I've had the service, I've not once been asked if I want to upgrade my service, other than generic advertising drops to "the occupier".

    I probably wouldn't take them up on the offer, as it would mean a new contract as other commentators have mentioned, and I'm not falling for that, but pro-active, they ain't.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

      thats because you're one of the few who dont question the bills and pay them without asking for more. They wont dare disturb you.

      1. Jediben

        Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

        We checked our current price versus the new bundle packages they pushed out last month last night, and found that we are paying £10 over the odds. A swift call and a bit of haggling/coercing (the sales guy didn't haven't a current pricelist compared to the internet deal) and we're saving £120 a year.

    2. britsurfer1

      Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

      Question; Why are you against signing a new contract if you've been with them for 16 years already anyway? Many of the best deals are available to customers signing new contracts.

      1. EddieD

        Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

        Because it shouldn't be necessary to tie me into an 12-24 month deal when my original contract has a clause in it whhich allows the contract to be modified in terms of service provision on request.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

          That is pretty idiotic to be honest. I mean you must have paid a ton of money over the odds over the 16 years for the privilege of that contract clause, which possibly isn’t even valid since Virgin took over, most probably there for Virgin’s benefit not yours and frankly, utterly worthless to you in any case.

          Now go either leave Virgin or get a decent package and pay less, please.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm surprised that they're still going.

      You probably opted out of being contacted and hence not contacted by them.

  10. Jediben

    On the other hand

    VM have rolled out my 100mbit doubling (manages around 75-80 during peak and 90ish off so that's pretty impressive) and they've even decided to give me 120mbit completely gratis. If you are in the area where competition is available, they do have a few cards up their sleeve t keep you.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wayhey! Keep fleeing and run with the wind!

    We moved away a few months ago after discovering their offer for phone/internet only was rubbish compared to BTs Infinity package. After poor attempts to try and lure us into swapping our rock solid cable modem paired with our own router with their rubbish own-router/modem to just gain 10mbits on top of 20mbit.

    The thing that annoyed us was the ridiculous traffic shaping on an individual basis. Especially on the lower connections where 8 gigabytes during peak (easy when you have 4 people using it for IPTV / ISO downloads etc) would topple you over to a 25% restricted service for 12 hours. Why not brash the strict rules on top level customers? AFAIK, they had no traffic shaping. I'd rather an ISP dips everyone by 10 - 20% to cope during peak times so local exchanges don't get squashed with traffic.

    BT Infinity has been ace during any time of the day and I hardly notice any drops in the max 45 meg down / 15 meg up. From my last memories of ADSL, VDSL2 is a miles better product, even if you achieve 30 meg minimum.

  12. Justice
    Thumb Up

    Broadband 'doubling'

    I was on the 30Mb service (Now doubled to 60Mb) and downgraded to 15Mb (Now doubled to 30Mb) getting the same speed as before (actually more like 40mb) and saving £5 a month.

  13. Fuzzy Duck

    been with them 3 months

    the tivo stuff is quite good but in 3 months we've had broadband down to 1mb for 3 days (twice), a rented film stopped halfway through and reset, box reset due to slow menus and numerous network messages on screen.....oh and the telephone call charges ARE A COMPLETE RIPOFF!

    other than than it's pretty good but i will look at bt at the end of my contract.

  14. El Presidente

    Never had anything but 100% from my cableinternetwebpipe whether from Telewest, Diamond Cable or Virgin Media. Have actually selected where to live based on cable vs DSL. Am sad for those who do have real issues with crap service.

    Never had anything approaching 100% from Virgin media customer services, not without a 2 month letter writing campaign to head office and an intimation to a press officer that 'this is good stuff for my article'

    But I'm really peed off at being lied to about the upgrade on the back of a 'Glom on to the Olympics' Hussein Bolt ad campaign and anyone who pretends that 'it's for free so there's nothing to complain about' is either a consumer dimwit, a serial apologist by proxy or a company shill.

    Watchdog, wherefore art tho ? Wilt thou not fine VM TREBLE the cost of their false advertising campaign then order them to knock that significant sum off the bills of their customers for taking the ...

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its all in the T&C's. Stop whining and wait, or leave...

    1 Happy Virgin Media Customer for over 5 years now (even longer at parents place)

    Yes the customer service is shocking, yes i hate their TV box, HD+ or Tivo, but who else is going to give me a rock steady 50mb connection for £30 a month? Or and who is going to double it and only charge me another £5 a month.

    You arent being forced to re-new your contracts at gun point are you? Cause then that would suck! But for now, you can pop over to BT and see what a REALLY awful service is.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT's customer service is appaling... really bad, like really really bad. Like mysterious £500.00 bills turning up, followed by final demands, followed by visits from the leg-breakers... which don't stop until you spend hours on the phone trying to convince all BT call centres and systems that you never wanted or ordered £500.00 worth of service. I've also been cut off twice because of an issue setting up direct debits at the begining of the account. Each time they were suggesting 30 days to 'reinstall' the phone line. In both cases I managed to get the line reactivated within about a week. The irony is that my building is next door to the BT telephone exchange where all the engineers are based. Has been stable enough for the last few months but has the occassional wobble / service outage. I reckon anything would be better than BT. But I just can't be arsed to change it all over!

  17. JimmyPage

    A rare satisfied customer here ...

    (note, I didn't say "happy")

    We moved in 10 years ago, when Telewest were cable providers. Since they offered an all-in-one phone,TV and dial-up (!) package, we joined. The only criteria then[1] was "anybody but BT". We have stayed with them, and taken advantage of various promotions to get 6 months free broadband (in 2004), a free upgrade to V+ (2008) and this year a free upgrade to TiVo and the basic 30MBs package (which needed a new modem).

    In that time, we've had 1 outage on the broadband. I think they had lost the pairing of the modem with the network, as I called up, and had to quote the modem MAC address. Fixed 5 minutes later.

    Speed is pretty much as advertised. Never experienced issues with traffic shaping - maybe because I just set downloads running on my 24/7 server. When they're there, they're there. My only grumble is the slightly od mix of channels on the "basic" TV package. But since we're not sports fans, and our son is way past the cartoon network stage, we're not missing much - it's be nice to have Discovery HD for example. But we manage without.

    Customer service on the whole is acceptable - yes you can have some problems with the offshore guys, but if things get too bad, hang up, redial, and select the "I'm leaving you option" - you'll get a UK person, who will knock a few quid off, or give you a discount on a new service.

    [1]When I became a homeworker, 3 years ago, I got lumbered with a BT Openreach Broadband connection. The saga of getting it installed, and activated, and the billing sorted was WORSE than I feared. Since I was already expecting a series of missed appointments, incomplete work, and messed up billing, they really went some to go under a bar already set at -10.

    Every so often, just for fun, I run a speed test on both connections. Here's todays results:

    BT: Ping 39ms DL: 4.87Mb/s UL: 0.72 MBs

    VM: Ping 20ms DL: 17.91 Mb/s UL: 1.98 MBs

    and that's real. I can download a 1 hour programme in 3 minutes.

    Compare and contrast with the in-laws who live a mile away, and have been with every combination of non-Virgin there is ... I stopped counting at the 5th incident they had where they lost internet connectivity in 3 months. Each time they had a round robin of calls between BT and the ISP.

    I know VM are a premium service. But that premium saves a lot of hassle should things go wrong.

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