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Author Topic: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?  (Read 755 times)

Bowdon

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Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« on: January 05, 2017, 01:49:41 PM »

Long rant post about VM, get your slippers, coffee and the comfy chair before reading  ;D

One of the big motivators for Ofcom recently was to promote competition. But Ofcom seems mainly focused on Openreach and have left VM nearly 100% alone. To promote competition why havent Ofcom tried to fix the issues VM has to help it be the competition that BT/Openreach needs?

Virgin Media's cable technology as always been interesting and potentially very fast and effective. But it seems to be bogged down with an outdated management mindset. I think its come from a lack of direct competition that they make a network but don't have the incentive to actually keep it up to a certain standard.

I'm not 100% sure on these issues as I'm not a VM person. But in the past I have been tempted to use VM but everytime I look in to it I'm seeing the same issues over and over. The same complaints on the forums over and over.

Quote
People paying for 200mb service and only getting very low and unreliable speeds. At peak times and holidays speeds being majorly reduced on download speeds.

Reporting problems only to be told its an area over subscriber problem so they won't do anything to fix it. Given a long date to fix it, maybe hoping many subscribers will leave and the over subscription will fix itself.

Having data usage caps. Reaching those caps and having speeds purposely reduced. This is particularly a problem on the uploads. This should NOT be happening in this day and age, especially for literally a national operator.

Pings being a problem, especially for gaming, even though they advertise a gaming package.

Constant price rises. Maybe this is linked to trying to reduce the amount of people using their service so they don't have to add more capacity.

False advertising. First with the gaming package, and also in the mobile side of things to. Not advertising properly their data usage limits and also stating clearly what speeds they will be cut back to. AGAIN, why is a national operator, NOT just an ISP, doing this in 2017!?

The point of this post isnt to be negative or unconstructive about VM. But to prod them in the right direction. Peoples problem with BT/Openreach will not improve unless there is serious competition. I think we all get locked in to a mindset of Openreach (and similar) etc when we already have a company that should be a rival to BT/OR and thats VM! Yet the fact we don't really take VM seriously to the point they arent a name that pops in to our heads when talking about this kinda thing is the problem.

I want VM to succeed and be the best it can be. But what we're seeing is really a business with no competition. It thinks its in a field that it has a monopoly and so never tries to set a high standard for itself. The technology probably has potential but the mindset of the company seems to be very outdated. There is no reason why VM couldnt be challenging BT right now. Even with a solid 100mb package it should be overtaking BT/OR. But they aren't.

I've heard about this new technology they are bringing out. But is that going to fix the saturated network issue? Is it going to increase capacity? Is it going to get them to be able to remove data usage limits? Are people STILL going to be suffering major downstream speed problems? Are the pings/jitter going to become good for gaming? Is upload usage no longer going to be limited?

It frustrates me that for all the problems we mention and complain about with BT, at least they are moving forward. VM seems to have stopped moving in the 1990's. Still using data usage caps, not upgrading their technology, just adding more cable and hoping they lose customers to fix an over saturation problem. What kind of a banana company is it with that mentality?

We need our second biggest broadband provider to be the best it can be. It needs to be a viable alternative to BT/OR. That way WE the customer have a choice.

I realise my rant is provocative but I think in this downtime before BT/OR G.fast appears on the scene, I think its a good time to focus and hopefully instigate VM in to improving too. To make their issues become resolved.

Edit: Hmm I might have posted this in the wrong section.. might need to move it to the ISP section  :-[
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Chrysalis

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #1 on: January 05, 2017, 02:08:16 PM »

There is a few things I have to say.

First if we go back to the early 1990s BT wanted to do a national FTTP network and thatcher rejected the idea and instead wanted competitors on the market, they were fearful of BT dominance, and I think since that day there has always been the mindset in the government that its is all about restricting what BT can do and allowing the likes of sky and NTL to have maximum room to move to compete with BT, I dont agree with this but it seems to be a decades old mindset.

Next if lookng at how ofcom regulate, they dont tend to intervene on technical levels of the service at retail level e.g. poor speeds on higher rated products, the closest they have come is actually via the ASA when it comes to advertising of speeds which we now have the estimated speed system.  That estimated speed system however is incredibly soft, where it only requires a pitiful 10% of customers able to achieve it to allow the speed to be marketed, VM are covered by the ASA regulation but can easily achieve the 10% requirement because it is at a national not regional level.

The only direct regulation of ofcom aimed at retail isp's seems to be enforcement of the ability to change providers if there is a so called material detriment to service.  By this they mean financial.  So it doesnt cover slow speeds.  Which is no surprise since ofcom are working on the mindset which is all that they need to do is ensure competition and this will apparently solve all problems.

In short if they regulated VM, it would probably only be to enforce wholesale access at a given cost and not much else.  This would probably actually make things worse for VM customers as congestion would increase with resold customers on the cable node and in addition VM would possibly be forced to branch of their engineer division as some rebranded openreach mark 2 brand meaning lower quality fault resolution..

The correct solution is to take up the existing ASA guidelines up a level.

1 - The marketed speed has to be attainable by 50.1% of customers or greater during a period of time when the network is used the most (peak time).
2 - The attainable speed has to be on a local level not national.
3 - The punishment for bad marketing has to be much more than a banning of an advert, it has to be a financial punishment that is large enough in that it is deemed not profitable to run the business in such a manner and as such it stops the practice.  An example could be to assess how much money it has made the business by running such a policy and then imposing a fine of 10x that amount. The fine would not count as costs when calculating taxes payable either.
4 - single threaded vs multi threaded performance gaps that are large enough should be classed as throttling and as such affect if the product can be marketed as unlimited.

This would kill VM dead in their current state and force them to market weaker products or spend a shed load of cash on their network to allow them to carry on marketing what they are now.
« Last Edit: January 05, 2017, 02:21:00 PM by Chrysalis »
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burakkucat

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #2 on: January 05, 2017, 05:25:51 PM »

Edit: Hmm I might have posted this in the wrong section.. might need to move it to the ISP section  :-[

Moved, as suggested.  ;)
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Bowdon

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2017, 03:54:56 PM »

Thanks @bcat :)

Thanks for the reply Chrysalis. You make some good points.

I'm just frustrated that VM are so far behind the field. They have a network with potential. If VM had a good tight company that was able to offer a good stable network with reasonable speeds, good pings/jitter, and no data restrictions then people would be happy. They should be working on a 100mb package that can be used to the max with very limited congestion.

The main negative for VM is its potluck on the service a customer gets. In other words its just not a reliable product.

VM seriously needs some computer people working on the networks instead of business people. The longer the bad broadband services go on the less and less people will go with them.

VM I think seem to be still fighting a losing battle on TV rights with BT and Sky. But BT/Sky both have very strong brand names. It is easy to cut VM out of TV using alternative connections. It's not offering anything unique unlike BT/Sky.

If VM don't seriously have a reconstruction now before G.fast comes out then I can see them eventually going out of business within 10 years.
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Chrysalis

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2017, 04:28:15 PM »

VM's owners now own F1, they own an entire sporting competition.

Ironically tho sky have a deal to air F1 in the UK for several years.

But if Liberty Global have the financial power to buy an entire sport, then they also capable of copying BT and getting football rights, whether they will or not only time will tell.

As bad as VM's issues are it never seems to be bad enough that it affects their bottom line, e.g. customer growth.  Also the UK has regulation that has to ensure VM gets access to BT and sky content.  VM I think will never go out of business, they managed to stay around when they were practically broke for 10 years, now they have a powerful owner.

I actually think VM will start acquiring more media rights over the next 10 years, this combined with their footprint expansion will probably eat into sky.  Sky is the one in trouble which some may be surprised to hear me say, I think the EPL bubble will burst within the 10 years, and they struggling to keep all their rights against stronger competition.  They have no mobile network they own, whilst BT do.  Plus satellite delivery for content is weaker than the delivery system VM has.
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Ignitionnet

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2017, 05:55:29 PM »

Liberty Global clearly disagree with your assessment that VM may be out of business in the next 10 years going by the 3 billion investment in passing more premises.

If Liberty were to hand the company over to 'computer' people I'm sure it would be out of business in 10 years.

There are very good people working in capacity planning within VM, however they can't work miracles. Unless you can figure out some way to defy the laws of physics with regards to space, power and cooling the issues that are there at present will continue for a while.

I should also mention that VM do not try to run a network that's free of visible contention, and due to how competitive the UK market is they simply don't have the revenues to do so. The model they manage the network on isn't outdated, they use capacity planning models recommended by vendors.

Working on a 100Mb product that can be 'used to the max' at a competitive price isn't going to win many customers, but will definitely lose money. They'd get torn to shreds in the marketing.

VM are spending tens of millions a year rebuilding networks, alongside upgrading cooling and power within sites and indeed fundamentally changing how the network operates, and this will carry on indefinitely.

VM are not and will never attempt to compete with the likes of Andrews and Arnold, and they don't have the luxury of massive TV revenues to subsidise broadband as Sky do, or a legacy network that can be sweat with relatively minimal upgrade costs.

VM already allocate more capacity per customer in the vast majority of areas than BT Wholesale do. Local issues are the nature of the network.

I'm going to go and get hammered shortly at a neighbour's, just because, however I would be more than happy to add lots more colour to how VM's network works, the capacity planning strategy, and the upgrades in progress.

In summary though:

Removing legacy equipment, Cisco uBR 10k, Motorola BSR 64k, replacing with Arris E6k and Cisco cBR 8
Replacing legacy CPE that rely on even more legacy equipment such as set top boxes that require the Cisco uBR 7200 VXRs - these were the original equipment delivering broadband services in 1999.
Rebuilding networks, replacing limiting RF amplifiers and optical nodes with equipment with more RF bandwidth, in some cases shifting from 45 MHz upstream and ~600 MHz downstream, for everything, to 80 MHz upstream, 1.1 GHz downstream, field modifiable to 195 MHz upstream, 900 MHz downstream
Migrating hubsites and headends to CCAP to allow more efficient use of RF capacity on networks
An ongoing program of splitting optical nodes via increasing fibre count and using WDM, placing fibre deeper into the network to reduce the number of customers sharing bandwidth
Increasing the bandwidth to each area as a result of the above, moving from in some cases 600Mb downstream, 38-57Mb upstream to 1.2Gb downstream, 108Mb upstream, and reducing the customers sharing that increased bandwidth by 50% or more

Regrettably not as simply as blowing another fibre from an aggregation node and lighting it, or paying Openreach or Wholesale for additional capacity to your own switch / LNS.
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Ignitionnet

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2017, 06:05:22 PM »

I should mention one major reason why Ofcom don't regulate VM as they do Openreach and KCom, simply Significant Market Power. Alongside that Ofcom aren't regulating Openreach for the benefit of consumers, they are regulating Openreach for the benefit of the CPs, and to ensure that Openreach cannot and do not favour the rest of BT Group. VM have no CPs as they aren't obliged to wholesale, and there are very few areas where they have a monopoly. Increasingly housing estates are actually being built with both VM and Openreach network being installed, very rarely just VM.

Regarding usage limits, VM have none on downstream, and customers have the option of two products with none on upstream. At the end of the day if people don't want to pay for zero upstream management that is their call. The 200/20 product is available everywhere, the 300/20 product almost everywhere. The idea that Ofcom should be regulating VM to require them to offer unlimited tiers throughout is nuts.

In nearly all of VM's footprint people have the choice of them and an at least acceptable (30Mb+) FTTC service. It's a very steep and slippery slope if we start expecting everyone to have a choice of superfast networks, and one that'll cause VM to almost instantly abandon Project Lightning, Openreach to roll back on their ultrafast ambitions and deter alternative networks from joining the market.
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Chrysalis

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2017, 06:46:22 PM »

yeah thats what I was trying to say, ofcom like to give the impression they are a consumer regulator, but they just a wholesale regulator for the most part.
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Ignitionnet

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Re: Isn't it time Ofcom fully regulated VM?
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2017, 06:20:32 PM »

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they influence outcomes for consumers by working at wholesale and infrastructure level. This does make sense, working at a more general level rather than getting bogged down in the specifics of retail operators.
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