back to article Virgin Media adds 200% to its new broadband contracts in 2020, slips back in black (just)

The pandemic has been relatively kind to the UK arm of Virgin Media, which reported [PDF] growth in its broadband and contract mobile business units during 2020. With the nation sternly instructed to remain home, the TV and telecoms provider said it saw the number of new home broadband subscribers rise by 200 per cent to 148, …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    some in, some out

    I pay VM (yearly price hike hello), 45 quid for 100Mbps, no shitty tv package, straight internet. For about half that, i.e. 25 quid I can get [up to] 66Mbps via phone line. Sure, it seems like a more-or-less fair balance on both options, but I rarely see much of that 100Mbps anyways. My ftp upload is 1.2 mbps (and yes, I do need to upload large data on regular basis), and my average download on anything (whenever I bother to look) is around 2 - 10 Mbps. Sure, if my wife has a teams session and both kids join theirs (remote learning, etc.), perhaps the connection is maxed, but other than that, I can admire 100 Mbps connection on one of those speed-testing sites, which I'm pretty sure are 'optimized to give you top speed. So, frankly, 60 Mbps is going to be more than enough, most of the time (no 4K or 8K streaming, nosir). In a way, it's a shame to leave VM because I generally have no issues with their connection, other than their f... annoying habit of updating my VM hub bang in the middle of the day, rather than at 4 a.m.

    but, imo, in the long run, those price hikes by virgin can't go forever (and 1 gigabit is just a gimmick, unless you're into 4K / 8K streaming).

    by the way, it will be interesting to see if VM start getting undercut by 5G mobile services and, at some point, by Musk starlink (which, at the moment, is too pricey, until, presumably, it reaches a critical mass).

    1. Martin Summers

      Re: some in, some out

      I pay 48 quid for 350mbps. I joined them early last year, thought I'd take a risk on them having been let down by their contention issues some years before. The price I'm paying is of course an offer, there's no way I'm paying them any more for it when the deal is up though. Retentions is your friend, you may actually have to go all the way through to cancel, I can almost guarantee you that you will get someone ring you with a deal before your end date.

      I can have gigabit in my area, which would be nice for the novelty factor and that's about it. Oddly they don't offer this as an upgrade, I could only get it from the start of the contract. I also wanted to add TV to my package, the offers page told me it would only be a few quid more. Then when I went to checkout the price bore no resemblance to the one offered at the start. I tried a live chat with them to moan. Never heard back from them. It seems they're deliberately doing themselves out of easy money by not paying attention to easy to fix issues. So their numbers could be better.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: some in, some out

        sadly, I'm just not that type of person who can haggle. The best I can do is tell them politely that unless they reduce my bill by 50%, I'm leaving, at which point, they'll start spewing bullshit. I can't stand bullshit so I'll just say thank you, bye, and put the phone down.

        In any case, I need to switch mobile provider, that'll be so much easier though, bye Three! :)

      2. tip pc Silver badge

        Re: some in, some out

        I get 200/20mbs for £27.

        I really didn't want to take vm in 2017 due to previous issues in 2006 but at the time I joined it was fttc 20mbs for ~£30 or vm 50mbs for £29 bumped up a bit to ~£40 pm for 100mbs.

        longish story but in 2019 I made the effort to see if I could get a new connection to the pole actually on my side of the street connected to the cab ~100m away that offered fttc at 80mbs, lots of protracted chats with Openreach revealed the magic words to say to the new provider to get the connection to the new (for me) pole. A Black Friday deal and plusher reckoned they could do it, install dates agreed, I phone vm to cancel. Their retentions teams kept phoning & I kept ignoring them. Plusnet failed to put the right words on the Openreach job spec so I had to keep rejecting the install from the existing pole & had to phone vm to extend the cable bb. After ~ 3 months I gave up on plusnet and took the vm offer of £27 for 200mbs.

        at times I get faster speeds tethered to my phone.

        Downloads can be great but I really wish I had faster uploads.

        the great news is we will soon have an alternate gig provider for £25 pm. reviews are crap but I'm willing to give them a shot.

      3. Martin Summers

        Re: some in, some out

        Replying to myself to actually highlight that I pay 38 quid per month not 48.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: some in, some out

      That 1.2Mbps upload figure makes it sound like you're confusing bits and bytes.

      That package has an "up to" 10Mb upload. 1.2MB/s is 9.6Mb/s

      *Shrug* Not saying that is the case, but those figures line up suspiciously closely.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: some in, some out

        I'm definitely mixing bits and bytes (classic). What I'm getting via ftp is 1.2 MiB/s

    3. Oneman2Many

      Re: some in, some out

      Why on earth are you paying £45 a month for 100mb ? I would be on the phone to retentions immediately. And as somebody else mentioned sounds like you are mixing bits and bytes. And starlink isn't designed for the masses and it's £90 a month for technology in the middle of being tested.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: some in, some out

        I'm pretty sure I'm paying 45 quid for 100mb (theoretical) speed exactly for the same reasons a huge majority (I'm pretty sure) of others VM customers do: because of price creep combined with discomfort that most people feel against haggling for something which, in theory, in our culture, is fixed, i.e. you get specific service for a specific price, both inflexible factors, in general. I'm not saying the above to defend myself, just explaining why. And I'm aware that cultural discomfort is being exploited by Virgin and by other businesses, although this might change, people do adopt to changing environment. So, as I'm unwilling, unhappy, and deeply uncomfortable to haggle, particularly on the phone against those at VM who do it as their main job, daily, I can either put up with such price creep, or go elsewhere.

        As to starlink, yes, by default it's not meant to be a competitor for mainstream internet service. But I'm pretty sure the sat tv wasn't originally meant to complement regular tv either, and I'm pretty sure, at some point, it became a threat to traditional means of delivery. And yes, starlink is 90 quid per month, and 500 quid for a dish (which, itself, is a pain, relatively, and a restriction for many people living in flats). However, pace of technology entering real-life application has increased hugely these days (sorry for the obvious), so it might enter mainstream faster than we think (and go, like a flash ;). Secondly, while I personally have some objections against Musk, I can't deny his business sense, and I no longer dismiss his claims, eg. that the rest of those 3K plus satellites will be in orbit by end of 2021. On top of which, his vision of rural internet access is one thing, but I don't think he'd be blind to the fact there are millions of people in big cities around the world, and some might take up his business, if his price is competitive against VM, BT or any other "broadband" providers. They won't for 90 quid a month and a 500-quid dish, but the price charged very much depends on the scale of uptake, and business ability to absorb temporary losses. As we know from all other areas where goods and services are offered (amazon have been running on losses for quite some time, haven't they?)

        btw, I'm not waiting to replace my VM with starlink, but I can see it becoming another player in town too, sooner or later. The more the merrier, for end user, although I must say, I'm not keen on the sight of those sat dishes abandoned after tv-sat craze, on street corners and hanging off windows...

    4. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: some in, some out

      I pay £15 a month for 30Mbps on 4G, unlimited data (traffic shaping only after 1000Gb in a month, explicitly stated).

      If I lived at my workplace 10 minutes away, I'd get 80Mbps with the same kit (I know, because I tried... little battery-powered 4G Wifi boxes are only about £50), and I ended up buying a second SIM to go in my phone so I test it quite often.

      Between Christmas and now I have downloaded some 3Tb. Upload speeds are enough that I literally stream my FreeviewHD TV to my phone wherever I am, and it works flawlessly, even while others are accessing content (I have family in Spain that like to watch UK TV).

      And when it goes wrong, I just change the SIM and/or failover to something else (I have a Draytek 4G-capable router and though 4G is supposed to be the "backup", it's just my primary connection and could use Ethernet, VDSL2, etc. as the backup if I so wanted).

      I would seriously look at what 4G speeds you get on certain networks, and have a look at whether you can get a 4G home connection and/or a SIM and a decent 4G Wifi box. Even an antenna that would fix to the house is only about £20 extra if your signal isn't great or you need to "point" it a certain direction for it to work.

      No, I'm not in Central London, but neither am I out in the sticks. I'm in a suburb and there is no VM connection at all in my road, and the only provider is BT who could only promise me "up to 4Mbps" when I checked it out a couple of years ago. I didn't even bother to activate the phone line for that, and just bought straight into 4G after testing it. I've had the 4G connection about 3 years now, and between my router and my phone, it costs me £30 and is the only connection to the Internet that I have ever needed. I VPN into home from abroad or elsewhere regularly and sit and watch live and pre-recorded HD TV all the time, send files back and forth, offer services to relatives over that line, etc. etc.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: some in, some out

        p.s. I looked at 4g sim options, but our mobile connection here is crap, because we're behind a hill, so I often experienced, literally, no signal, even though three showed "healthy red" in our area (yeah, you bet). What put me off, on top of that, is the caveats with 4g, essentially, that you can't tether, and for a good few years three have been very successful at making tethering impossible (well, this means they never earned more money from me). In theory, in the long run, 5G might become a solution, with decent coverage, but again, it's directed at mobile users, not to fill a gap in home use.

        1. Lee D Silver badge

          Re: some in, some out

          SMARTY - Three-backed company, expressly allow tethering in their T&Cs, 1000Gb/month before they do anything to you traffic-wise (stated in one of their brochures on the subject) and then it's just a speed limit, not a block.

          Been with them two years, never had a problem, and have easily done 1000Gb in a month.

    5. JetSetJim

      Re: some in, some out

      The "[up to] 66Mbps" comes with many caveats - what's their guaranteed rate? It's frequently much lower

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: some in, some out

        I don't think they have to (legally) provide a min. speed, but most of those, phone-line based services are reported to offer, more or less, the speed they offer (although, sometimes it's a bit less, perhaps in the region of 55 - 60 Mbps).

        1. JetSetJim

          Re: some in, some out

          BT currently indicate a "Stay Fast Guarantee" that is less than the headline "up to" rate. Putting in a previous address of mine, I get the headline of 74mbps, but "Stay Fast Guarantee" of 34Mbps

  2. Trigun
    Thumb Down

    I'm paying £45 or there-abouts a month for 200mbps. It won't stay at that as every 6 to 12 months or so they seem to put the price up by £3 to £4. Quite annoying. I'm not sure if they are simply trying to squeeze more cash out of me or force me to ring up to complain, give me money off but then lock me into another 12 month contract.

    1. David 155

      sounds familiar

      This all sounds painfully familiar. My price for 200mbps will soon rise to around £45.

      After 30 mins on hold I was told theres nothing they can do. For about an hour could not get any sense out of one of their chat people about a 'deal' being offered to me on their website for tv, phone and internet that was about £10 cheaper than current package. Despite not even wanting tv and phone I go through the wizard to order it anyway and on the last page the price is £19 higher than advertised- that'll be the line rental and believe it is not legal anymore to show prices which exclude this.

      Once openreach get around to upgrading the network in my area I'll be switching, not just because of the price but because the customer service is atrocious. Shame because the connection is decent.

  3. Yamosu

    I live in a 'complex' of newish flats. Something like 300 flats across multiple blocks. They all have VM available - just not ours despite the cables being in the footway outside the front door.

    I've just about given up with them and I've not even got their service!

  4. dha

    BT's kind contribution to Virgin's growth

    Don't underestimate BT's contribution to Virgin's 200% growth. Living near the center of a majorly wired city, my ancient copper connection would only get 3 to 4 Mbps download, officially rated as 'poor' even by those optimised speed tests. Yes, that's 3 to 4, not 34. After a year's fruitless chasing for BT to say when they'd be improving capacity, during 2020 I was forced to bail to Virgin. And now get 100Mbps. If prime potential areas like mine aren't being built out with fibre promptly, BT/Openreach are going to continue to lose market share.

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