Virgin Media

Internet speed expectations…

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We all live on the internet now, be it for email, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever, it is now almost as important as food and water to some people!

So when you go somewhere different, the speed or accessibility of internet access is an issue. I certainly have got to know over the years where the ‘dead spots’ are on the Vodafone network – sadly far to large and numerous in my experience! We have recently moved to EE at work so it will be interesting to see how this compares – I have high hopes!

IMG_2784Part of the reason for the move was to get the higher 4G speeds, and I have certainly seen 50mb download speeds since the move which is pretty impressive by anyones standards.

So, if the mobile networks can provide this for us on average for £10 a month (excluding the handset cost), why is paid wireless in most hotels etc so incredibly poor, and expensive?

This week I have stayed in a Premier Inn, the cost of wifi for 24 hours was £3 – not a lot on the face of it – but see the speed test screen shot, I wasn’t getting much for my £3! Surely it is possible to give a decent connection speed? At home I have 152mb download speeds through Virgin Media – I will let you do the maths as to how much quicker that is…..

My experience of wifi in the USA and even in Europe has always been good, why can’t we sort this out? The only place I have had really good wifi speeds in the UK is on the London underground platforms – and that is provided by Virgin (there is a theme developing here).

We need hotels and pubs to realise that simply ‘providing wifi’ isn’t enough – it has to be useable!

The wonder of fibre…

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I have been a long term user of the Virgin fibre network in Nottingham (originally NTL), for both my TV and internet. It is fair to say that until recently their service has been brilliant, with downtime counted in hours over many years.

Sadly over the last few weeks there have been some issues – the majority national ones caused by DNS server issues – something that could happen to any provider but extremely annoying! Add to this the recent underground fire that completely took out much of South Notts as far as Virgin was concerned for days and you get the picture – I was ready to call the retention department at Virgin to vent my frustrations.

speed

So the other day I rang, was offered some deals to stay by the ‘normal’ call centre, but was then passed to retention and got a monthly reduction and a speed increase to 152mb for my broadband.

Now you read about fast connections and how quickly things download at this connection speed – but when you actually experience 152mbps it is really impressive! And my connection currently is slightly faster than that as you can see above! Very large downloads (GB’s) take a few minutes rather than half an hour or more. I am impressed and as long as the recent DNS issues are a thing of the past I will continue to praise Virgin Broadband.

A case of ‘cart before the horse’?

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What happens when you put a package delivery service together with a mobile phone operator? Chaos!

Over the last few weeks I have been intrigued by the actions of the delivery company Yodel – they tried to deliver a package to me – but I wasn’t expecting anything and it wasn’t anyone’s birthday for months. So what could it be…….

20130311-150858.jpgI decided to wait until it had been attempted to be delivered three times, so that I could then collect it from the depot (in Loughborough). Unfortunately the third delivery attempt was not notified to us by a failed delivery card (although according to the Yodel website it occurred when we were in the house!). So the package ended up being returned to the sender.

A call to Yodel confirmed the sender was Virgin Media – I am a Virgin customer so I rang them to ask what they had been trying to send to me – and why I had not been notified! I was told that nothing had been sent and that they would have advised me if they were sending something out to me.

Fair enough – this was a few days ago, and I decided to let it rest. And then today I received the attached email saying they had sent something to me. It is also related to a safety recall. It appears that my current modem power supply could overheat and catch fire (as confirmed in the link they sent me).

So I am not impressed with Virgin for a number of reasons;

1. They didn’t tell me the item was on its way to me

2. This is a safety recall – surely it should be dealt with in a more professional manner?

3. A text? really the best way to deal with it?

And as far as Yodel are concerned – next time you ‘deliver’ at 8.30 in the evening perhaps it would be worth actually coming to the house? I might even be in!

Life without broadband….

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20121116-211600.jpgThis week has seen an interesting experience at the Dare household – no broadband for 3 days. This was an enforced experience, the connection had been getting somewhat ‘flaky’ over a period of a few days and then it stopped working all together. A quick call to Virgin Media confirmed that it was terminal and a visit from an engineer was required – but that the earliest visit was Thursday (and this was Monday evening).

I will admit that the initial thought of no Internet access (except via my iPhone) caused me to have a hot sweat. But, having gone through two and a half days ‘cold turkey’ it wasn’t all bad!

Yes, we couldn’t really do our weekly shop with Ocado or Able and Cole (I say we – my wife does it), but it did cause a teenager to appear from YouTube for a couple of days and actually talk to us! And it highlighted just how good a smartphone can be to run your life on!

Service was returned before lunchtime on Thursday, so we are back to normal. It was a loose connection in the cabinet apparently – this was the first time our Internet had gone down in 10 years, so a pat on the back for Virgin (for once).

It’s good to talk….

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You may recall the BT advert from a few years ago that tried to get us all to use our telephones to talk to each other – it was apparently ‘good to talk’. Time moves on and it now seems that it isn’t and we are more likely to text each other than speak!

According to Ofcom while 58% of people communicated via texts on a daily basis in 2011, only 47% made a daily mobile call, the shift away from traditional ways of keeping in touch being led by young people aged 16-24 (no surprise if you have your own teenager).

The report confirms that on average UK consumer now send 50 texts per week while fewer calls are being made on both fixed and mobile phones (certainly our home phone is more of a decoration now).

However for the first time, there was a fall in the volume of mobile calls – by just over 1% – in 2011, while landline calls were down by 10% and overall time spent on the phone fell by 5% in 2011.

This change in behaviour is believed to be down to greater ownership of internet-connected devices – smartphones like the iPhone;

  • 39% of adults now own a smart phone, a 12% increase on 2010.
  • 42% of these now say their smart phone is the most important device for accessing the internet, with a similar percentage regularly using social networking sites and 51% using e-mail.
  • The average consumer spends 90 minutes a week accessing social networking sites and email.
  • Tablet ownership is also on the rise, with 11% owning such a device, up from 2% last year.
  • According to Ofcom, tablets are most often used in the home as a “snacking version” of the home PC.

So probably no surprises here, but a confirmation that the smart phone is beginning to play a very important part in all our lives – and is perhaps going to kill off the basic telephone before too long. It is also sad that people now prefer not to talk to each other. Is this the start of something more insidious in our behaviour?

Before we start worrying about faster 3G speeds can we sort out basic mobile signals?

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So small but so important!

As I mentioned in my last blog post I have had a very relaxing weekend under canvas in Derbyshire this last weekend. The Derbyshire Dales are truly breathtaking at any time – but particularly at the moment with all the new growth and wild flowers. So a quiet time was had – but quieter than I expected due to the almost total lack of a phone signal.

I am happy to accept that a National park does not want phone masts all over its hills, but we are not talking a partial lack of signal here, I was without a signal for the majority of the two days, despite moving around a lot (including in a car along main roads – so not all in river valleys!) I am also on a network that apparently claims to have the best UK coverage – Vodafone. Now if this is the case perhaps they could explain to me why my wife had a full signal – including 3G for almost the entire weekend? Her network? – Virgin Mobile who are not exactly a ‘big hitter’ like Vodafone!

I have commented before about exactly the same issue at my Mothers home town of Malmesbury in Wiltshire. It is only a few miles from the M4 and sits mid way between Bristol and Swindon, but the Vodafone signal is appalling! And guess what – my wife gets a full 3G signal there as well!

So my request to Vodafone is simple, stop claiming to have the best coverage – you don’t, by a long way. As far as I can see the other networks nearly all trounce you in most areas. So rather than spending a fortune pushing out 4G to everyone in the big cities how about a thought for your rural customers, what about giving them a decent service as well?

Losing the will to live….. And then…

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Sounds dramatic doesn’t it – but dealing with Virgin Media must have an effect upon the nations suicide rates! Luckily I appear to have survived, my problem has finally been resolved, the experience was not a pleasant one though.

I thought I would be in my grave before this was sorted!

We were almost at the 3 week mark for my issue with Virgin – I won’t summarise the story, you can look here for the trail in my blog (I have even given Virgin their own category as they are a major contributor now!).

Suffice to say the depth of incompetence here was staggering. Initial advice and action at the call centre was all wrong (and numerous ‘untruths’ appear to have been told).

I knew from my wifes experiences that I needed to escalate the matter from the call centre as quickly as I could, and I did. My email to the MD was answered personally by him within 30 minutes (and at 9.30 at night) – so fair enough I was impressed.

Added to that Sophie in the CEO’s office has been helpful and has finally managed to sort the issue for me – but she had to take over from the three ‘experts’ that were given the job in the first place. Apparently the IT issue was being dealt with by the head of IT eventually!

Virgin added lots of freebies to the phone over the last 3 weeks, which are appreciated but how about actually providing decent service in the first place Virgin? I find it appalling that a company that has Richard Branson’s name on it can be so bad! And the number of people that have told me their tales of woe with Virgin in the last few weeks beggars belief!

So the matter is resolved (as far as I know) – am I a happy customer? Well I am certainly happier than I was, but Virgin really need to address a few basic issues before they have me fully back on board!