Virgin Traffic Management

Virgin media finally revealed details of their traffic management system which they’ve been trialling for the last few months. While it’s no big surprise that it was coming with so many other companies implementing it in some shape or form some of the limits seem a little low.

  • Broadband Size: M – download more than 350MB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 1MB download, 128kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented
  • Broadband Size: L – download more than 750MB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 2MB download, 192kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented
  • Broadband Size: XL – download more than 3GB during peak hours (16:00-00:00) and your connection will be throttled to 5 MB download, 256kb upload lasting for four hours from when it was implemented

While I’m not against throttling this seems to be a blunt instrument to address the problem. Instead of throttling back torrent and newsgroup ports to a slow speed they are dropping your full connection speed. For those on M & L, those limits are pretty easy to reach. Just one of the podcasts I subscribe to is over 400MB for one file. With some careful management throttling could be avoided but your back to downloading overnight and during the day to keep peak hours free for normal web use, VOIP, gaming etc which can eat into those limits fairly easier.

Put it another way, once 20MB connections are introduced just 21 minutes at full speed would take you over the 3GB limit. Not much, eh? However factor in that after the 21 minutes you are still getting 5MB and it’s not really too bad. It will be frustrating though if your hosting on Live and you pop over your limit, throttling back upload speeds and potentially dropping your friends. Also, does the new connection speed implement seamlessly or is there a drop and re-connect?

I can’t really see me having a problem on XL although I was considering dropping to L once the upgrades were completed. After these changes I’ll be staying where I am.

NTL Trials

So NTL are trialling a new way of shaping. Well, I think it’s new as I haven’t heard of any broadband provider working like this. If you are a heavy downloader, even during the day or at other off peak times then your connection will be limited during peak times. According to Cable Forum the trial affects 10Meg users who are limited to 5Meg during peak times.

Issues so far seem to be users who are out all day are still being downgraded during peak times. There is also ambiguity with the terms and conditions. This trial will only affect users who break the user policy…yet the user policy now states there is unlimited downloading on NTL. When will we get companies to spell out in black and white what exactly a broadband user can and cannot do. I’m on 10 Meg but to be honest there is so much contention on the network at the moment that in peak times I see around 3-4Meg. If this trial does free up bandwidth I’m all for it. Will be interesting to see what happens if NTL do keep their promise of everyone on at least 10Meg by the end of Q1 07 with 10Meg moving to 20Meg. I’ll be downgrading soon methinks.

Sky Broadband

A few months after buying Easynet Sky have launched their Sky Broadband package. On the surface the offerings are very cheap compared to competitors and also offer a free wireless Netgear router for all customers.

Sky Broadband

Look a little deeper though and things aren’t so clear. Firstly the max package is subject to a fair usage policy which if going by UK Online’s FUP will be similar to most other providers.

Secondly is that the broadband will be provisioned through Easynets LLU (Local Loop Unbundled) exchanges. This at the moment covers 28% of the UK but by year end will be over 50% and by end of 2007 over 70%. This is an extremely aggresive expansion over the coming months which will test the capacity of the network and also the quality of support staff. If you don’t connect to an LLU exchange you will use Sky’s Connect package which doesn’t offer as good value as the three packages mentioned above.

Third – you need to pay for a BT phone line which for many will add to the cost.

Fourth – you need to be a Sky Digital customer. If these points don’t cause you an issue then the broadband package is an amazing offer. Great value and the prospect of a fast Video on Demand service linked in with your Sky box. Despite this it’s not enough to tempt me into moving and that’s all down to Easynet/BT.

Six months ago I moved to NTL. That’s the last time I had issues with my broadband connection. Previous to NTL I had a short but unhappy experience with Freedom2Surf’s LLU service provisioned by Easynet. Unreliable, prone to disconnects and difficult to resolve due to problem being passed between Freedom2Surf, Easynet and BT forced my hand into switching to NTL. It will take a lot to convince me to move back although £10 a month compared to £35 with NTL is a strong argument. At the very least the competition from Sky should make NTL offer a more competitive service. More on the Sky offers can be found in the investor presentation.


It had to come in the end – NTL will shortly be introducing traffic shaping between 18:00 and 23:00. It slipped into the user policy on Friday although it has been announced today that this was ‘a mistake‘. I’ve got mixed views on this. Most other broadband comp’s are doing this and they do have to make a profit for the service they provide. I would prefer a strict download cap though rather than shaping during certain hours as I hate leaving the pc switched on when not in use – such a waste. I also want the full fat speed when I use the PC – why not implement harder caps and charge more for those that use/abuse the service rather than hampering everyone’s speed?

On the other hand if users are honest the traffic being shaped is peer to peer and Usenet – when was the last time you used these technologies legitametly on a repeated basis? I’ve not so have I got any reason to complain?

However movie and TV companies are moving onto download services, some using torrent technology (including NTL). How many people will download a DVD sized movie which takes 24 hours rather than 3 due to the shaping that’s been applied. Not me. I guess that NTL won’t traffic shape their own paid for service either.

Weighing up the issues I’m now in the camp that thinks if it guarantees a good service for surfing, e-mailing and gaming then traffic shaping is a good thing to do. While it prevents some things it at least gives me a service for the legal activities that my connection is used for.

Speaking of legal…my downloading via Usenet has almost dropped to zero. DVD downloading is just too much hassle – much rather buy the DVD and watch it. With the 360 I’ve got no urge to download any Xbox titles, I’m back buying music and I’ve got no need for any hacked apps. Sky HD is on the way too – I won’t be downloading TV shows anymore. Is it just me?

Broadband Joy

Finally I have a fast and stable broadband connection thanks to NTL. It was installed last Friday and since then I have not had one disconnect. Contrast with Freedom2Surf’s LLU service which was flaky and prone to disconnects. I also seemed to suffer some accusations of lag while gaming online although I was never entirely convinced it was me. Saying that, there has been no lag at all since NTL was installed.

Secondly the speed is impressive – most impressive. About 30 minutes after the line was installed I took an ADSLGuide speedtest which you can see here. Almost a full fat 10Meg connection. Real world speeds i.e. downloading, streaming and general web surfing have also been very impressive. Web pages were a lot snappier than previous suggesting that NTL’s DNS servers are working really well compared to my last two providers.

Contention however can definitely be seen with NTL but not to the same extent as the ADSL network in my area. Yes I’m in a Glasgow on a big exchange (western) but to slow down at night to less than 50k/sec is pretty unacceptable. I should have been seeing 6Meg. I find NTL is dropping to 4-6Meg in the evening but at other times maintains the 9-10Meg speeds. SO after one week I can only recommend NTL’s cable service. I’ll update later in the year once I’ve had more experience of their long term performance.

Finally – Freedom2Surf have lost the plot. I cancelled with them last week but they had the cheek to phone this week and offer 2 free months connection and a promise to fix all my issues. I wasn’t impressed with this at all – why not fix the problem while I’m a paying customer and not when I leave. Sounded like they have had quite a few users leave recently. They also admitted today that they have been traffic shaping over the last weeks. I wish they had been up front so that people knew this was happening – it would have saved a lot of wasted time and money in contacting their support desks. Their reputed honesty and good support seems to have gone out of the window. In case you haven’t figured it out I didn’t take them up on their free months offer. Good riddance.

Bye Bye F2S

3 months. That’s how long I lasted with Freedom2Surf. I’m so glad I took a monthly contract as it means I can get out easily. I should have known I would have problems when Pipex bought Freedom2Surf and Sky bought Easynet (who provide the LLU line) within a week of me moving.

Firstly – LLU. It’s just not stable at the moment. I can live with a drop in speed at night due to contention (which will affect more and more people as the speeds increase throughout this year) but I cannot live with a flaky connection that has a tendency to drop. Easynet’s solution was to drop me to 6Meg from 8Meg. This meant the SNR level was mostly respectable but even when high the connection would pop at odd times.

I mentioned drop in speed – at night it was dropping to less than 1Meg and a 150k upload. That’s the worse I’ve seen in a long time. Although I criticised Plusnet at least they kept the speeds at an acceptable level although they did it by shaping the connection and not telling anyone about it.

Support at F2S is also poor. They don’t respond to e-mails or any of the tickets raised on their website. You can only contact them through a support line that costs a fair whack…typically you will wait around 20-50 minutes in a queue although I found phoning at around 11-11:30AM got me through quite quickly. The support guys sound knowledgeable but out of the four promised phone calls I would get next day over the last 3 months I got one about 10 days after I logged a call. Just not good enough.

So – time to go. I want a fast but most importantly stable connection so who to turn to? My line looks to support 6 Meg max via ADSL so as the speeds go up over the next few years I’ll be stuck at that speed. Left me with one option – NTL. So this Friday NTL will be installing a 10Meg line. I’ve no doubt it will suffer contention in the same way that ADSL does but hopefully it will be more stable and also the 10Meg speed is very appealing even if it maxes out at 8-9Meg. I also feel NTL has a far better infrastructure in the long term than BT has – I blame Thatcher for that one.

So – out of the frying pan, into the fire?

Broadband Update

It’s been three days since my 8Meg line was switched on. So far the speed performance has been very impressive – I still can’t get over just how fast my downloads are. Files really are just taking seconds to grab. Mail speed is also excellent and the DNS issues have settled down.

Not so good is that on Thursday and Saturday between 6 & 8pm I got disconnected a couple of times. After some investigating I’m putting it down to the condition of my line and not F2S or the LLU provider Easynet. The key factor is that as the speeds of broadband increase the quality of your line becomes all the more important.
Continue reading “Broadband Update”


After a week without broadband F2S and Easynet finally got their act together today and I’m now back getting my bb rush. My connection speed seems a bit ‘floaty’ at the moment but a download speeds between 6 & 7Meg is not to be sniffed at – ADSLGuide test results. Upload speed is nice at over 600k – be interesting to see how that affects my Xbox hosting abilities.

F2S DNS servers seem less than rock solid so I’ve moved to a different providers but apart from that there is nothing bad to report. Downloads from newsgroups were topping out at around 650k/sec. The LLU line seems more susceptible to MTU & RWIN tweaking. I managed to get close to 7Meg but then got greedy and saw the connection drop to around 3.5Meg.

However it’s great to have broadband back. Dial-up was amazingly slow – so many sites are now set-up for fast users it made most unusable. Even e-mails took a long time to download. Maybe I’m just looking back through rose tinted specs, maybe I’m to used to the fast speeds but I’m sure when I used dial-up all the time it was slow but not that slow. When iTunes 6 came out last night I chuckled at the thought of downloading 30Meg – it would have taken forever. Today it took less than a minute.


I’ve got quite a few posts to put up but really have to get a few moans out of the way first – think of it as cleansing.

  • Plusnet. Although I’ve moved to Freedom2Surf that doesn’t take place until the 6th of October so I still need to suffer. Not only is the Usenet speed slow during the day as well, but they are wanting users to vote for them in the PC Pro 2005 awards. Cheeky bards. What’s worse is that they can e-mail all their users about voting for them and how they could win prizes yet they can’t e-mail them to say that their pricing is changed or their accounts are totally different from when they signed up. Apparently there is a communications opt out checkbox hidden in the terms and conditions but nobody mentioned that the checkbox had been added and unless you visit the forums you won’t know it’s there or how to opt out.
  • Why does the new Apple Nano in black come with white headphones. Just looks daft. I guess it’s so the adverts still work.
  • In the same vain – why did the black PSP come with white headphones and white adaptor. It looked cheap Mr Sony and was white because of the iPod.
  • The Xbox 360 – 2 different versions of the hardware is impacting on how games are being developed and what features are added. See this article for more info. Fools.
  • Rangers are mince. Watched the game yesterday (for free on Freeview – nice) and they were woeful. Lucky it wasn’t a heavier defeat. Bring on Inter!!
  • It’s a holiday weekend. Off Monday & Tuesday. The weathers crap and I’ve got work from the office to do. Bah.
  • Why does plaster soak up so much paint. Even though I put two coats of sealer on it’s still soaking up the paint. Oh well – time to put on another coat.

And relax…