Sunday, December 13, 2009

Virgin Broadband and Digital Photography - No good

This article is intended to make clear some limitations of the Virgin Broadband offering with regard to Digital Photography.

I recently graduated in Mathematics and the family took some good pictures, and a few short 1 or 2 minute movies.

Nothing too fancy, just handheld digital cameras, rather than camcorders or things that produce huge files.

What I discovered today is that Virgin Broadband have a throttling policy that kicks in once you upload 200 megabytes.

Now just to put the numbers in modern terms - A new £150 digital camera is probably going to give you a 10 megapixel shot, and result in a photo that takes somewhere between 5 and 10 megabytes of space on the computer.

Being conservative, and assuming they are all 5 megabytes that means that 200 megabytes of photos (40 snaps in all) is going to trigger Virgin's throttler.

Virgin Throttler - about
Here are a few bits of information that I was able to glean from talking to the call centre guy this afternoon:
  • Throttling checks are in place every day 9am->9pm
  • Once applied, any throttle will stay in place for 5 hours.
  • 200 megabytes of upload is enough to trigger throttling
  • Throttling applies in both directions, so fall foul of uploading limit, and your downloading is going to drop to snailpace also.
Summary Comment: Try and upload 40 photographs anytime between 9am and 9pm and your connection will suffer.

Now back to my particular situation....I just wanted to make those couple of minute movies available to the family so thought I would stick them on a website server...

(Click the image above for a full-size version if it appears a bit blurred)

The important information is the KB/s figures which at best show 30KB/s and at worst show - stalled - , or crummy speeds of between 10KB/s and 20KB/s.

In practical terms that 75 meg 1 or 2 minute movie is taking over an hour to upload:

Here are the files in a file manager just to confirm the amount of data I was trying to send:

As you can see the total upload is somewhere around 350 megabytes - the exact figure is not so important.

Even given the information about virgin throttling, the 30KB/s (fastest ahem) which I was getting originally is pretty poor by todays standards.

Here is an extract from the conversation with the broadband help today:

Me: "So the throttling has kicked in because it is a weekend"

Reply: "No because it is peak time - I suggest you try after 9pm"

Me: "And peak time is when?"

Reply: "9am to 9pm each day"

Me "But that is half of the day, and of the remaining half I am asleep for 8 of those hours"

Reply: "That is the traffic shaping policy that was explained when you signed your agreement"

Me: "It never said anywhere that if I upload 200 megabytes you will throttle my connection speed"

...and so on...

The message I think is clear for me anyway, if you are serious about digital photography then take the time to question your proposed broadband provider, so as to make sure that uploading is going to be workable for you.

If you have a 10 megapixel digital camera and you are thinking about switching to Virgin Media Broadband, then you might want to call them up and check what throttling will apply to your broadband package before you sign.

1 comment:

Gary said...

In the original post I said
"...Throttling checks are in place every day 9am to 9pm."

Virginmedia have recently altered this policy so throttling is in place for 2 hours less per day (10 hours total)

5 hours Traffic Management 10am to 3pm
5 hours Traffic Management 4pm to 9pm

One tip I picked up from reading about some of the broadband policies is to seek out a provider that does not prioritise VPN and Gaming.

If you are signing up to consumer broadband and are not planning to use VPN or Gaming, then your traffic might be degraded*, so as to give priority to other Gaming users or people using VPN.

I feel better already knowing that my connection speed is being slowed so that Bob down the road can suck on the pipe whilst VPNing into the office. Probably editing his vitally important word document with the list of names for the Epsom Derby office sweepstake.

Try googledocs or zoho Bob, you bandwidth hog.

( To my knowledge, there is no Bob living in my road, but I'm sure that around the UK at the moment there are several Bobs who have not discovered online document editing, and think that VPN over their home broadband is a great solution )

*Several consumer broadband packages prioritise VPN and Gaming as the highest priority at the expense of other traffic.