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Virgin Media warns of digital distribution pitfalls

Virgin Media warns of digital distribution pitfalls

Virgin Media has warned that, according to a survey of 2,000 UK adults, buyers may have false expectations of how quickly games will arrive from digital distribution services.

Communications giant Virgin Media has warned that increased reliance on digital distribution could leave the UK's broadband networks creaking and punters twiddling their thumbs for far longer than they expect.

The new console generation has officially begun, with Sony and Microsoft launching their respective PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles alongside Nintendo's Wii U. This time around, however, they are to face increased competition from the PC market with Valve looking to license a range of compact, low-cost gaming rigs running its Linux-based SteamOS - the first of which, teased by iBuyPower ahead of its CES unveiling early next year, doesn't include an optical drive.

Even ignoring devices like iBuyPower's Steam Machine which would rely entirely on digital distribution through Valve's Steam platform, there's no denying the direction gaming is moving. Both the PS4 and the Xbox One make a point of being able to buy games for download as well as on Blu-ray discs, even going so far as to allow gamers to begin playback before the whole game is fully downloaded.

Virgin Media, however, has concerns that customer expectations aren't being managed. In a study carried out on the company's behalf by OnePoll, covering 2,000 UK adults, the company's broadband arm found that around 78 per cent of respondents expected games to download in five hours or less - while almost half, at 42 per cent, believed the download would have finished in under two hours. Sadly, that's unlikely to be the case.

Quoting Ofcom's official average broadband speed for the UK of 14.7Mb/s, Virgin Media correctly calculates that a top-end 50GB title - not an impossible figure, given this generation's increasing focus on graphical fidelity - would take around nine hours to complete. While some portions of the game may be available sooner, that's still a significant time to wait - and far more than the two hours for which many buyers had hoped.

With consoles, the problem isn't too severe: those on slower connections can simply opt to buy the games on disc instead, although day-one patches are increasingly common and can measure a fistful of gigabytes themselves while both Microsoft and Sony offer downloadable games as part of their paid subscription services. For devices like iBuyPower's Steam Machine, however, which have no optical drives, digital distribution is the only way - and will likely require a considerable upgrade to the nation's internet infrastructure before the process becomes as painless as inserting a disc.

'Before we know it, big game launches won’t be measured by queues outside stores at midnight,' predicted Virgin Media's broadband and home phone director Joe Lathan, 'but by whether or not we see a surge in downloads across our network!'

44 Comments

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Corky42 2nd December 2013, 12:31 Quote
Do the new consoles allow pre-loading of games before release, like Steam does ?
dyzophoria 2nd December 2013, 12:44 Quote
quite frankly, though for now, this would be a pain for consumers, this on the other hand will really really push internet speeds further..
Gareth Halfacree 2nd December 2013, 12:56 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Do the new consoles allow pre-loading of games before release, like Steam does ?
Not as far as I'm aware, although I think the Xbox One at least can receive install instructions remotely while in 'connected standby' (the default 'off') mode - so you can hit the Xbox Live Marketplace from work and have the game hopefully ready to play by the time you get home.
Corky42 2nd December 2013, 13:10 Quote
Not pre-loading games before release seems like its asking for trouble.
I would be biting my nails if i was VM or any other ISP, as when a major game gets released everyone will starts downloading all at the same time.
sub routine 2nd December 2013, 13:32 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Article
Ofcom's official average broadband speed for the UK of 14.7Mb/s
sigh i wish. I pay through the nose to not get throttled on a 7 meg with 700kbit download speeds
Anfield 2nd December 2013, 13:32 Quote
As if the ISPs could not have seen that coming, did they not notice the arrival of Steam, BBC iPlayer, Spotify, Itunes or Netflix to just name a tiny selection.

Sorry but it was all too predictable that the Xbox One and the PS4 would demand a lot from internet connections.
thogil 2nd December 2013, 13:45 Quote
Most new games take 20-40 mins to download on fibre, depending on their size and how good the download server is. You can multiply that by 3 or 4 if you are downloading through Steam, due to their often pathetic servers.
Corky42 2nd December 2013, 14:00 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thogil
Most new games take 20-40 mins to download on fibre, depending on their size and how good the download server is. You can multiply that by 3 or 4 if you are downloading through Steam, due to their often pathetic servers.

Doesn't that depend on the speed of your connection :?
And if you think its bad downloading from Steams servers when often you can start pre-loading a game a week before release, imagine what it will be like when thousands, maybe millions of people all try to download the latest COD on release day.
Woodspoon 2nd December 2013, 14:05 Quote
So Virgin Media are saying download times are too high, or that peoples expectations are too high?
Seems to me either way that since Virgin are one of the few remaining ISP's that throttle across their entire range they should sort that out first before making comments about download times.
B1GBUD 2nd December 2013, 14:37 Quote
I'm an XXL120 customer, pretty sure I've downloaded over 10GB in a peak hour and never seen any traffic management.

http://my.virginmedia.com/traffic-management/traffic-management-policy-thresholds.html
sandys 2nd December 2013, 14:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Not as far as I'm aware, although I think the Xbox One at least can receive install instructions remotely while in 'connected standby' (the default 'off') mode - so you can hit the Xbox Live Marketplace from work and have the game hopefully ready to play by the time you get home.

Yes there have been pre loads on PS3s PSN stuff for a long time as well as the ability to do what you mention above from the PSN store website to PS3.

You can also get your PS3 to download stuff it thinks you might like and install them for you automagically, demos etc.

I would imagine this would remain for PS4.
the-beast 2nd December 2013, 14:47 Quote
50 GB! - That would take nearly 4 months on my current connection!
jrs77 2nd December 2013, 14:56 Quote
The problem isn't the games and it's digital distribution. The problem is the ISPs and the bad infrastructure in some regions.

If Virgin has problems delivering the advertised speeds, then they simply need to invest some of their profits and build a better infrastructure instead of filling their bags with cash.
Parge 2nd December 2013, 15:34 Quote
VM customers - how do you find your connections? I'm thinking of getting the 'naked' 60mb service.

I'd like to know

1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin]
3. What are you pings like when gaming?
Corky42 2nd December 2013, 16:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
Other than 6 months of problems last year before they upgraded something, i find them good if you don't mind working around the odd web site that has been blocked by court orders.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin
I only have the 30Mb line, and unless im getting throttled for breaking what they call a "fair use policy" i normaly max out my connection when downloading games from Steam (don't use Origin)
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
3. What are you pings like when gaming?
Not sure how reliable the pings you get shown in games are, also about the only game i play online is TF2 so my experience maybe limited but i get around 15-20 ping on UK based servers.
Low pings are the main reasons i stick with a cable connection versus ADSL.
phuzz 2nd December 2013, 17:07 Quote
We're on VM in our house, and I don't remember having to wait more than an hour or so for a game, it's wicked fast (on the 100Mb connection). Never noticed any throttling either, and that's with five of us all downloading a lot.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
Ok, it can slow down a bit at peak hours when everyone in the area wants to watch iPlayer at 6pm
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin]
15MB/s is normal. Again, we're on the 100Mb connection. And yes, that is fifteen megabytes per second.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
3. What are you pings like when gaming?
Not sure to be honest, no complaints though.
Combatus 2nd December 2013, 17:34 Quote
9 hours at the UK average maybe - a hell of a lot longer on Virgin if you do it in their 'peak' hours, which is pretty much ant time most of us are at home, and you get throttled :D
GeorgeStorm 2nd December 2013, 17:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Not as far as I'm aware, although I think the Xbox One at least can receive install instructions remotely while in 'connected standby' (the default 'off') mode - so you can hit the Xbox Live Marketplace from work and have the game hopefully ready to play by the time you get home.

Well, half way maybe :P
Zaim 2nd December 2013, 17:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
VM customers - how do you find your connections? I'm thinking of getting the 'naked' 60mb service.

I'd like to know

1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin]
3. What are you pings like when gaming?

Not had any issue's this year tbh. I always get around 15.5MB/s when downloading through Origin/Steam.

http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/3139571729
thom804 2nd December 2013, 17:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
So Virgin Media are saying download times are too high, or that peoples expectations are too high?
Seems to me either way that since Virgin are one of the few remaining ISP's that throttle across their entire range they should sort that out first before making comments about download times.

I'm not sure where all this gumpf is coming from anymore.
I've been with Virgin for nearly 2 years now and i've never noticed throttling of any sort. Fair enough I live just outside Glasgow where uptake has been pretty slow compared to London, but still. I'm on a 60mbps package and that's exactly what I get, day or night.
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/3139597624
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2883915934
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2628104838
RedFlames 2nd December 2013, 18:01 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
VM customers - how do you find your connections? I'm thinking of getting the 'naked' 60mb service.

I'd like to know

1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin]
3. What are you pings like when gaming?

1 - The odd blip every now and again... but mainly fine...

2 - 7 Megabyte/sec d/l from the 'UK-Manchester' content server... Do get throttled after a while but can't remember how much by... Not used origin in a fairly long time so can't comment...
EDIT: Downloads from the XBox Marketplace seem to take forever but I think that's at MS' end...

3 - Server dependent but I can't say I've had any lag issues...

That's on the 60 Meg package...
erratum1 2nd December 2013, 18:10 Quote
Surely people responded based on experience of their own connections 14.7mb/s may be the average but it's 41mb/s here.

Which is rural out of the town location.
Intolerantman 2nd December 2013, 19:10 Quote
Every time HS2's £50 billion (or so) estimated cost comes up on the news, I can't help but think they could put fibre optic into everyone's home instead.
Anfield 2nd December 2013, 21:25 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804
I'm not sure where all this gumpf is coming from anymore.
I've been with Virgin for nearly 2 years now and i've never noticed throttling of any sort.

Not sure if they changed their policies since I left them, but Virgin Media did punish people who used p2p, unfortunately they never differentiated between legitimate uses of p2p and illegal uses, so lets say you played a perfectly legal game you had purchased legally and that game used p2p (like for example Trackmania) you suddenly found your ping in the 4 digit area and downloads in the 0.01mb range.
RedFlames 2nd December 2013, 21:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anfield
Not sure if they changed their policies since I left them, but Virgin Media did punish people who used p2p, unfortunately they never differentiated between legitimate uses of p2p and illegal uses, so lets say you played a perfectly legal game you had purchased legally and that game used p2p (like for example Trackmania) you suddenly found your ping in the 4 digit area and downloads in the 0.01mb range.

Never had anything like that happen... and I use P2P a *lot*...
Woodspoon 2nd December 2013, 21:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804

I'm not sure where all this gumpf is coming from anymore.
I've been with Virgin for nearly 2 years now and i've never noticed throttling of any sort. Fair enough I live just outside Glasgow where uptake has been pretty slow compared to London, but still. I'm on a 60mbps package and that's exactly what I get, day or night.
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/3139597624
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2883915934
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2628104838

Then you're probably not hitting their "fair usage" throttle limit.
We have the 60mbps service as well and we have to be very careful especially at weekends not to go into throttle time, all it takes is one large game from steam coming down full speed and thats it throttled for an hour or two.
ch424 2nd December 2013, 22:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
VM customers - how do you find your connections? I'm thinking of getting the 'naked' 60mb service.

I'd like to know

1. How do you find general browsing and reliability
2. What kind of speeds do you get on Steam/Origin]
3. What are you pings like when gaming?

I'm on exactly that 60Mbit package. Steam is currently downloading at 1.4MB/sec, which is rubbish. I'm connected to the router by gigabit, and get the full 60mbit on speedtest.net.
bawjaws 2nd December 2013, 22:08 Quote
Probably an issue with Steam, tbh - it's sales season, so their servers will be overloaded. Outwith the sales, I get full speed downloads from Steam (about 3.6MB/sec on my 30MBit connection with VM).
Parge 2nd December 2013, 23:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
Then you're probably not hitting their "fair usage" throttle limit.
We have the 60mbps service as well and we have to be very careful especially at weekends not to go into throttle time, all it takes is one large game from steam coming down full speed and thats it throttled for an hour or two.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ch424
I'm on exactly that 60Mbit package. Steam is currently downloading at 1.4MB/sec, which is rubbish. I'm connected to the router by gigabit, and get the full 60mbit on speedtest.net.

These are the things that I'm concerned about. I wonder what their 'fair usage policy' is - its hard to find out the exact terms.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bawjaws
Probably an issue with Steam, tbh - it's sales season, so their servers will be overloaded. Outwith the sales, I get full speed downloads from Steam (about 3.6MB/sec on my 30MBit connection with VM).

Yes, in fairness, at the moment the Steam content servers will be getting hammered. Didn't I read about Virgin becoming an official Steam content server partner or something?
Syphadeus 3rd December 2013, 00:01 Quote
VM's traffic management has been changed recently and it's a lot more lenient than it used to be. On 30Mb the slowest your connection will get throttled to is now something like 24Mb and the time scale for this is now adaptive and ranges within a 1hr period (low level throttle) and 2hr period (high level throttle down to 24Mb).

Previously if you downloaded more than a few gigs during the day they would cut as much as 50% of the overall downstream speed and you'd be stuck like that for 5hrs.
RedFlames 3rd December 2013, 00:05 Quote
They've updated it since I last checked but here are the thresholds and throttles for the various VM packages...

From what i can tell they've lowered the thresholds for throttling, but lowered how much they throttle you by [and for how long]... Can't say I've noticed anything major throttle wise, and I have uTorrent running constantly...
Gundam God 3rd December 2013, 01:55 Quote
Virgin Media officially stating their network isn't up to scratch? Is it April fools?

Still the best ISP around here sadly. If someone were to offer fibre i'd jump ship immediately.
CowBlazed 3rd December 2013, 08:08 Quote
Why would any game be a 50GB download when there is such a thing as compression.

Take out the extra languages from your typical 20GB game and you're left with 5-10GB of real files and 1 language.
damien c 3rd December 2013, 09:53 Quote
Well I have no issues with my connection and because I work for Virgin Media Business I get to see allot of stuff that I cannot talk about, but yesterday I left just over 400Gb of stuff downloading and when I got home I found that I had not been reduced in speed at all.

The only time I have had my speed reduced lately is when I uploaded a few videos to youtube and my upload speed was reduced.

For anyone who think's it's just a case of using some of the "profits" to pay for a network upgrade, it's not that simple especially when you take in to account the cost to buy the equipment for doing the upgrade.

The upgrade that has just taken place where I live, cost just over around the £250,000 mark for the equipment, then there was the new cables that were needed and civils work which took it up to just over around the £300,000 mark.

Either way it's not cheap but with the next lot of investment in the network, and from what I have seen then speed will not be a issue for most people.
runadumb 3rd December 2013, 11:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804

I'm not sure where all this gumpf is coming from anymore.
I've been with Virgin for nearly 2 years now and i've never noticed throttling of any sort. Fair enough I live just outside Glasgow where uptake has been pretty slow compared to London, but still. I'm on a 60mbps package and that's exactly what I get, day or night.
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/3139597624
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2883915934
http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/2628104838

Those upload speeds are brutal! I am moving next month and have to leave Sky and go with Virgin to get decent internet but I can't believe how slow the upload is on the 60MB line. Hardly flying on the 100MB line either.

...Crap!
Kovoet 3rd December 2013, 11:54 Quote
Been with virgin since they brought out cable in my area and never had problems. I have everything with virgin including my mobile network. I'll stick with them and yes the upload it's slow for the 120mb connection but it suits me fine for now
GeorgeStorm 3rd December 2013, 12:14 Quote
I personally had a pretty bad year last year with virgin, ok download speeds most of the time, but horrific ping, either spikes or constant 500ms+

Mainly due to the superhub being bad I think, but even after we put it in modem mode and used a decent ASUS router it didn't solve all of the issues.
Will be looking for alternatives when I head back to uni next year.

(I'm not saying people shouldn't go with Virgin, merely that like all companies there's the chance you'll have a bad experience, they aren't perfect)
Corky42 3rd December 2013, 12:28 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by runadumb
Those upload speeds are brutal! I am moving next month and have to leave Sky and go with Virgin to get decent internet but I can't believe how slow the upload is on the 60MB line. Hardly flying on the 100MB line either.

...Crap!
Yea it would be nice if VM had higher upload speeds, not sure how they compare with the upload speeds of other ISP's. If it helps these are the corresponding upload to download speeds.
30Mbit has a 2Mbit upload
60Mbit has a 3Mbit upload
120Mbit has a 12Mbit upload
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeStorm
I personally had a pretty bad year last year with virgin, ok download speeds most of the time, but horrific ping, either spikes or constant 500ms+
That sound exactly like what i was getting last year, have you tried recording the quality of the line using something like thinkbroadbands line monitoring system and posting the results on the VM forums.
Gareth Halfacree 3rd December 2013, 12:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Yea it would be nice if VM had higher upload speeds, not sure how they compare with the upload speeds of other ISP's.
They're not great. I'm on BT Infinity Option 4, and get around 72-74Mb/s down and 16-19Mb/s up.
runadumb 3rd December 2013, 12:49 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
Yea it would be nice if VM had higher upload speeds, not sure how they compare with the upload speeds of other ISP's.
They're not great. I'm on BT Infinity Option 4, and get around 72-74Mb/s down and 16-19Mb/s up.

My 40Mb/s Sky connection gives around 8Mb/s up.
Dedlite 3rd December 2013, 22:10 Quote
Do VM still throttle your bandwith outside 'core' hours? (One of the reasons I moved to BT Infinity)
thom804 6th December 2013, 00:58 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodspoon
Then you're probably not hitting their "fair usage" throttle limit.
We have the 60mbps service as well and we have to be very careful especially at weekends not to go into throttle time, all it takes is one large game from steam coming down full speed and thats it throttled for an hour or two.

Doubt it. Just checked my admin page for my router. Turns out I've downloaded 528gb in the last 20 days. I should also day that most of that is done in the early evening so the wife and I have something good to watch on TV .
GeorgeStorm 6th December 2013, 10:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by thom804
Doubt it. Just checked my admin page for my router. Turns out I've downloaded 528gb in the last 20 days. I should also day that most of that is done in the early evening so the wife and I have something good to watch on TV .

Just for the record, are you using the superhub to check that?

Ours was waay off on usage so I wouldn't take it as gospel.
thom804 9th December 2013, 02:18 Quote
I am using it yeah, but it seems about right. I came back from sea just over three weeks ago, formatted my PC and downloaded everything afresh. That was well over 500 gigs, so if it is off, it's not by much.
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