The newly merged Virgin Media O2 (VMO2) is running some interesting trials on the sly, experimenting with free broadband and increased upload speeds.
ISPreview was tipped off to Virgin’s free broadband offer by readers this week. Under the tagline “Be Connected Broadband,” Virgin appears to be offering a basic broadband connection on a rolling, 30-day contract for no charge. The service has an average download speed of 10Mbps but a target speed of 15Mbps, making it very similar to Virgin’s social tariff, launched in November and charging £15 per month.
Virgin Media quickly removed the website associated with the free service when ISPreview inquired about it. But the service appeared to require customers “consent to marketing” to receive the free service. This could possibly include ads.
The trial is limited to 200 new customers whose homes are already connected to Virgin Media’s network (around half of UK premises are). With the website now wiped, it seems VMO2 has already found those 200 participants. We’ll be interested to see what comes of the experiment and if Virgin extends it to the wider marketplace.
Additionally, Virgin is running a trial boosting the upload speeds of some existing customers on 100Mbps tariffs.
Slow upload speeds have been the Achilles heel of Virgin Media’s cable network. Even as the DOCSIS 3.1 software update has taken maximum download speeds on the network to 1,104Mbps, upload speeds have lagged. They’re just 50Mbps on the gigabit connection, a far cry from the symmetrical speeds on full-fibre 1Gbps connections, and 10Mbps on connections that offer 100Mbps downstream.
But for some customers, that 10Mbps has recently been doubled to 20Mbps, in what Virgin has classified as a time-limited trial.
Although this development too is in the experimental phase, VMO2 has given us a glimpse of what’s coming down the pipeline.
A spokesperson for Virgin Media told ISPreview: “We are always working to improve our products so regularly trial new services and offers. We have some really exciting projects underway and our customers have a lot to look forward to.”
The news of the trials follows the official merger of Virgin Media and mobile operator O2 on 1 June. The new VMO2 has announced its intention to invest £10 billion over the next five years to improve its cable broadband and 5G mobile networks, to lure in subscribers and take on BT/EE.
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