back to article Throttled customers rage over Virgin Mobile UK's tight cap

Virgin Mobile UK's experiment with throttling is turning into nightmare as customers across the network complain of fragmented data services barely suitable for email let alone the promised 2Mb/sec. The wireless mobile comms brand, which is run by Virgin Media in the UK, only recently started capping mobile data speed at 2Mb/ …


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  1. Malcolm 1

    Of course T-Mobile wouldn't be capping transfer speeds to make their EE 4G offering more attractive

    1. Zog The Undeniable

      I'm an EE customer

      and I don't recall them telling me about the 4MB cap. Maybe they buried it in the weekly spam e-mail, in white text on a white background, or used steganography to hide it in their horrid new logo.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: I'm an EE customer

        Me neither. I have, however, been getting a pretty lousy service with T-Mobile recently. Often when my phone claims to have a strong signal and is sending and receiving at H+ speed, it still takes an absolute age to download even the lightest website.

    2. GettinSadda
      Thumb Down

      Looks like...

      EE: So, are you going to buy our new 4G service?

      Cust: No, I'm fine on 3G

      EE: {fiddle-fiddle-tweak} So are you sure you don't want 4G?

      Cust: Hmm, 3G seems a bit slower these days, but it's good enough

      EE: {more-tweaking} You sure?

      Cust: Wow it's slow on 3G these days, but still OK

      EE: {clunk-fiddle-kludge} Absolutely sure?

      Cust: What the... this 3G is useless! How much did you say 4G was?

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Looks like...

        Hmm. Sounds awfully like the Sky HD situation. HD pictures look better on a standard definition CRT TV than standard defintion pictures do, so clearly the SD channels are being compressed way below the levels that are needed to provide a good picture. Is that to make HD look even better & justify the extra cost? That is the question...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Looks like...

          Re: Sky HD

          We have a 40" LCD TV, maybe we sit too far from the TV because the other half can't tell the difference between SD and HD (eg. BBC 101 v 143).

          The demo units in the likes of Tescos which swipe between SD and HD to show the difference do look a bit exaggerated, with SD running through RF and virgin media-style compression levels, vs the HD half which has the brightness and sharpness levels turned up.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Looks like...

        More like:

        "You want how much to beef up the backhaul to support those 4G customers? Just throttle the shit out of 3G until there's enough spare on the existing setup.".

      3. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

        Re: Looks like...

        @GettinSadda: Oh they must have been wanting me to upgrade for years, my 3G connections have always been poor. Been with Orange to long now and time to move to another provider who will give top speed to start with then dial it down when its time to upgrade.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As an Orange customer, who they are trying hard to rebrand as an EE customer I have noticed that data quality has dropped in some areas. I get weekly emails telling me to come over to EE, sign a new contract, get 4G, home telephone, broadband etc etc. Hmm but I live outside of any major conurbation... Though I can get a phone signal if I lean out of the bedroom window.

  2. Christopher Slater-Walker

    What is the point?

    Exactly what is the point of a 4G contract if the maximum bandwidth is being restricted in this way? I thought it was all about "super-fast" mobile data, not "reasonably fast/comparable with your average domestic ADSL service" mobile data. Especially given the price the networks are charging.

    1. Rampant Spaniel

      Re: What is the point?

      lower latency and in theory cheaper data per gb even if the speed is the same. You can fit more customers or the same number of customers with more data within the same width of frequency with 4g than 3g. The extra speed is nice however !

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Rampant Spaniel

    The last paragraph sums up the issue perfectly. If you openly sell a capped reliable service then thats fine, if you sell a service then cap it, in some cases refuse to comment on capping, and not actually manage to deliver the reliability that was the alledged reason for the capping, then you are a berkshire hunt. Vote with your wallets.

    1. James 51

      Thanks to contract lock in that could be months or years from now.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That said, there is a chance a change like this actually works as a get out clause to a contact as they have changed what they are providing you. Depends on the contract though.

      2. Ian McNee

        Other Contracts Are Available...

        @James 51:

        SIM-free device + monthly rolling contract = stress-free life when mobile service provider f*cks-up.


        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Other Contracts Are Available...

          I'm actually doing the same thing, but it's more informational porpoises for those still in contracts.

          Not a typo.

  4. John Moppett

    Cap? What Cap?

    I'm running 3G on T-Mobile and testing at a consistent 17Mb plus!

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Cap? What Cap?

      Lucky you. Mine just reported 2.2Mbps. Not too bad, but it's certainly been worse than that before.

      1. deshepherd

        Re: Cap? What Cap?

        Mine just reported 3.7Mb up and 1.5Mb down ... fine for me as "mobile" data.

  5. El Presidente

    Vote with your wallets

    If a service provider offers a service with specific features, then unilaterally changes those features, that's most likely a breach of contract and a buyer would be free to walk away. The capping down to to 2Mb/s is a significant change, whatever the spin they are putting on it.

    1. Richard 81

      Re: Vote with your wallets

      I was never offered a specific speed of connection, besides it being "3G". So no, it probably isn't.

      1. El Presidente

        Re: Vote with your wallets

        @Richard 81:

        Might not be of use to you but the general principle stands.

      2. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: Vote with your wallets


        You may not have had a specific speed mentioned in your contract (not least because speed will vary with conditions and contention on a wireless contended service) but their sales material was full of comments like Y times faster than 2.5g and up to 6mb downloads.

        They made a song and dance about 3g speeds now they are hoping everyone will forget that. The bottom line is they have fundamentally changed the product they sold you. Their contract can stipulate they are allowed to do so, that doesn't make it a fair clause.

        If they are so sure it will result in a better service they should let you leave if it doesn't.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Vote with your wallets

      Try walking away. Those contracts are very one-sided and it isn't your side.

      I had a mobile company hound me for months after walking away from an expired contract. They didn't seem to understand that it had, well, expired. I never paid them and had to send many nasty letters to cease harassment. I still sort of wished they had continued. Could have paid for my retirement.

  6. This post has been deleted by its author

  7. Chris007

    hey, you stole my comment posting without crediting me :)

    "One has to wonder if EE is more interested in emphasising the greater capacity of its 4G network than actually serving its 3G customers"

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: hey, you stole my comment posting without crediting me :)

      That sounds like a crime in progress...

  8. Swiss

    Same as you guys, Orange on EE.... Everything Everywhere? should be called NN Nothing Nowhere!

    What happens when you complain.... If you guessed nothing, then you would be right.

    1. King Dave

      Nothing Anywhere, surely.

      1. big_Jim

        Nothing Everywhere, surely?

    2. dotdavid
      Black Helicopters

      Actually it used to be called EET (Everything Everywhere Throttled) but they dropped the T because the focus groups didn't like it.

  9. big_Jim
    Thumb Down

    About now

    Every afternoon my Virgin Mobile 3G connection will disappear from my phone here in the lofty heights of Canary Wharf until 5pm-ish.

    For this reason alone I'm voting with my wallet next time. Pick the least worst.

    1. dave 158

      Re: About now

      and that would be .....

      Only coz I'm in the same Orange boat and coming up to contract time



      1. auburnman

        Re: About now

        I'm in the Orange boat too, and I've been promising myself I'd jump ship for months. Unfortunately I want to get an itemised bill before I go so I can stick them for overcharging, so I keep putting off cutting the cord.

  10. Jon Green

    Only just joined VM...

    ...didn't expect to have to dump the SIM so soon. Fortunately, it''s just one a one-monther.

  11. AndrueC Silver badge

    For several years I was capped at 400kb/s as were many others who had first joined on their PAYG tarrif. They never did explain what was going on there.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. Dave 62

    I guess this explains why loading some pages is very hit and miss and streaming even just audio is completely out of the question?

    I'm a bit new to all this smartphone business so I don't know what I should expect as a consumer but I know it's possible to stream movies on netflix with other networks so unless Virgin is the budget brand of mobile interwebs (akin to TalkTalk for the proper variety) they should be able to manage it to.

  14. Skrrp

    Mixed results here

    I know that the T-Mobile network has been flaky for me recently. Some periods of outage of up to 20 mins where it shows signal bars but refuses to shift data.

    Speed tests just now:

    Bournemouth (physically closest): 2Mb down, 1Mb up

    Maidenhead (closer to gateway): 3Mb down, 1.8Mb up

  15. gautam

    Be prepared for the worst

    This is what highly leveraged takeovers do. Never in the consumer's interest.

    The new overlords wants a return on their investments, and this is one way they start in cost controls and hopefully sell more/better/faster data!

    Capitalism, 21 century style. Someone buys and everyone pays. (Bankers involved).

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Be prepared for the worst

      21st century style? Guess you missed the previous centuries?

  16. Stu_The_Jock

    3G speeds . . work fine here

    Having read this I decided to test my mobile provider. On my tablet via 3G I got 9.84Mb down and 1.66Mb/s up. Turn on the wireless and the mobil apps craps itself as it tops off at the 20Mb/s cap in teh app each way. . . and with 8GB/month for about £28/month equivalent (249 NOK) It's pretty reasonable priced too.

  17. ecofeco Silver badge


    You would be LUCKY to have those speeds in the US no matter how much you paid.

  18. Lewis Burgess

    Super quick T-Mobile 3G

    Whereas here, in leafy Surrey, I'm getting 20.4Mbps down and 14Mbps up on T-Mobile. Just a shame I'm limited to 1GB/month. Also a shame when the phone switches to Orange and it's like treacle.

    Just thought I'd brag.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Out here ...

    ... in rural 'ampshire, the connection on my nokia 3310 is terrible, the WAP pages are loading real slow.

    On a serious note, I don't think I've *ever* got a decent speed on 3G - I'm with 3 which is marginally better than Orange.

    Then again, I'm kinda used to it - best ADSL speed I can get is 4mb/s and BT have no plans to rollout 21cn to the local exchange.

    Am I missing anything? Not really, Netflix works OK.

    Probably multi-tasking - watching streaming movies when the other half is surfing/downloading is pretty much impossible.

  20. Lallabalalla

    You lot are making O2 look positively idyllic

    That's a first.

  21. Glostermeteor

    Good thing im on a 30 day rolling contract

    Im with Virgin Mobile, so far I havent had too much of a problem but thats mainly because there are plenty of wifi hotspots that I use. I am on a 30 day rolling contract with Virgin Mobile however if things are bad I can just leave. Buying phones sim free and getting sim only deals is much cheaper and more flexible!

  22. localzuk
    Thumb Down

    Caps are irrelevant to me...

    If I get more than 1Mbps on my phone here, I'll be amazed.

    However, these caps are interestingly timed... Just right to advise people to move to a 4G plan perchance?

  23. Logicalstep1

    Badly Capped

    Don't get me wrong I only pay £5 a month (deal with my mobile years ago), but I have noticed that my '8 meg' connection constantly struggles to even stream ITV's crappy video feed these days. Iplayer always stutters as does HQ YouTube.

    Not content with providing a sub standard broadband service EE have recently put up my mobile contract by 3% and not content with that, I get a letter through telling me they are raising the price of my phone insurance by 1.99, form 6 to £7.99 an increase of 33%!

    I think that's classed a material change to my contract, lets see if they agree :P

  24. David 135

    They temporarily remove the cap, and things are OK for a bit...

    According to a post by one of their reps on the forums, this morning they've got EE to temporarily remove some network controls, including the speed cap, to see if that helps with the data problem. Having run a speed test afterwards, I'll say it does - I'm getting results at least 3x what I was getting previously, and more importantly getting reasonable response times for page loads, etc, at least right now.

    Virgin, if you reintroduce the speed cap in something remotely resembling it's previous form, I'll be switching to another provider, you can be sure of that. I'm paying for an unlimited data contract that allows tethering and has no Fair Use Policy. That is the ONLY reason I switched to you recently. If you can't or won't provide that, then you won't have my custom.

  25. Zedsquared

    Bad positive feedback effect here

    When tales of slow networks hit the news, all of a sudden everyone is running speed tests all the time to see if it's true or not and whaddyaknow ... slowness ensues :)

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