Tag Archives: Virgin Media

Virgin Media Rolls out new Mobile Workforce Management Solution

Virgin Media has announced that the company expects an increase in the level of customer satisfaction and cost cuts, after it deployed the Mobile Workforce Management system developed as a software-as-a-service by TOA Technologies.

The telecom service provider installed the sophisticated software system for more than 1000 Virgin Media field workers who are supposed to install and fix Virgin cable and broadband internet service in homes.

Commenting on the deployment of the software, Virgin Media chief customer and networks officer, Paul Buttery, said in a statement that “The system will improve customer experience and give us the scope to improve the working day of our technicians by giving them tighter routes with less travel time.”

The Mobile Workforce Management system deployed by the company is capable of analysing the previous performance, overlays skill sets, job history and customer proximity in order to determine the amount of time a particular Virgin Media worker will take for completing a task on hand.

Read more: http://www.itproportal.com/portal/news/article/2010/4/23/virgin-media-rolls-out-new-mobile-workforce-management-solution/#ixzz0lws8p1WW

Virgin Media signs video Web deal with Brightcove

Cable TV operator Virgin Media has chosen online video publisher Brightcove to provide and support short videos for its more than 11 million monthly website visitors. The two firms said in a statement that Virgin Media would use the Brightcove platform to carry its online news, music and entertainment content alongside adverts. The Nasdaq-listed British cable firm, which has recently launched an online music video service, said Virginmedia.com would be at the heart of its entertainment line-up. Media companies around the world are increasingly making their content available online, to reach new users and the advertising money that is available on the Web. Brightcove has said it has also seen an increase in companies asking about their services since the start of the economic downturn, as they look to launch new services but hold back the costs. Brightcove, which is privately held, already has partnerships with British broadcasters ITV Channel 4, Five, BSkyB and STV. The firm last week announced a deal with Turner Broadcasting to support its content throughout Europe.


Conservatives pledge “100mbps by 2017” and to “break up BT monopoly” on Andrew Marr show

This morning, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne promised that a Conservative government would deliver 100Mbps broadband services to the ‘majority’ of homes by 2017. In an interview for the Andrew Marr show, he also suggested that where the private sector was unable to deliver a solution, such as in some rural areas, the BBC license fee might be used to fund this.

The suggestion is that the BBC continues to set aside the 3.5% of the license fee that is currently being used to fund the digital switchover but for this money to be diverted to fund broadband expansion. Exactly what constitutes a ‘majority’ of UK homes having access to 100Mbps by 2017 is unclear, so we hope this is clarified if it forms part of an election manifesto.

“In the 19th century we built the railways. In the 20th century we built the motorways. In the 21st century, let’s build the super-fast broadband network that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs for Britain.”

George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor

The current government has promised a Universal Service Commitment (USC) of 2Mbps by 2012 and has also planned a 50p/month levy (the ‘broadband tax’) which will be used to fund ‘next generation broadband’ for areas where the market is unlikely to deliver. This levy is expected to raise between £1-1.5bn by 2017 to pay for the ‘final third’ project to connect the most rural of areas resulting in 90% next-generation broadband coverage. It is not quite clear exactly what ‘next generation’ means in this context, however we expect this is referring to services in the 25Mbps+ range.

Mr Osborne goes on to compare the Labour government’s 2Mbps USC with the promises by South Korea for 1Gbps, although he did not expand on the Conservative policy for delivering basic broadband services in a shorter timescale which may be of concern to those who can’t get broadband at the moment. He also proposes the break up of BT to enable LLU operators and cable operator Virgin Media to deliver better services:

“If there are some parts of the country where the market can’t get to; because I think the best way to deliver this is by breaking up the British Telecom monopoly at the moment which holds back companies like Carphone Warehouse or Virgin. If we find the market can’t do that, then use the BBC license fee, the digital switchover money in the license fee, to get broadband out to the rest of the country, but let’s see first of all if we can have the market delivering that super-fast broadband.”

George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor

The license fee is currently £142.50 per year, so 3.5% would amount to about £5/year per household. This amount is not too dissimilar to the £6/year levy (50 pence per month for every phone line; although we note that businesses would also be caught in the levy being planned by the government) particularly after factoring in any increases in the license fee. We are therefore seeing a shift from one type of tax to another


BT launches super-fast broadband

BT is launching its next-generation super-fast broadband service next week with a claim to have undercut Virgin Media’s prices, sparking a war of words with its bitter rival.

The next generation of super-fast internet connections are more than five times faster than the basic 8Mb connections enjoyed by most people today and enable whole music albums to be downloaded in seconds and HD movies in just a few minutes.

BT is spending £1.5bn putting a new fibre network within the reach of 10m homes by the time of the Olympics in 2012. It will have 500,000 homes connected by the end of next month and 4m by the end of this year. Virgin Media, meanwhile, has already upgraded its existing cable network, which passes 12.5m addresses, and launched its own ultra-high speed offering.

From 25 January, BT will start selling its super-fast broadband service, called BT Infinity, to customers who have already had their lines upgraded, starting at £19.99 a month plus £11.54 line rental. That is less than the basic £28 a month – plus £11 line rental – charged by Virgin Media.

The cable firm, however, hit back at BT’s pricing, accusing the company of misleading consumers because Virgin Media’s service is actually faster. BT’s service runs at 40Mb per second while Virgin Media’s is 50Mb per second.

“We’re not sure why people in the UK would want to wait for BT’s 40Mb service which hasn’t launched yet, when they can already get Virgin Media’s great value 50Mb service,” said a spokeswoman. “Last summer we completed the roll-out of our next-generation service to 12.5m homes and people throughout the country are already enjoying all the fantastic things you can do online with the UK’s fastest broadband service.”

Virgin Media also pointed out that the £19.99 basic version of BT Infinity comes with a 20GB a month usage cap. That is lower than the fair usage policy of many residential broadband providers offering services at much lower speeds – who typically restrict users to downloading no more than 40GB a month. It could also seriously impinge on broadband users as 20GB is only about 50 hours of on-demand television while a single HD movie is about 5GB. Virgin Media does not have a monthly usage cap on its 50Mb service.

But the head of BT’s consumer business, John Petter, responded that super-fast broadband is not just for people who download a lot of data – such as computer game players or film fans – it will also appeal to people who just want to continue to use the web as they do now, but have much faster access. “There will be a group of customers out there who just want their existing broadband usage to be seamless,” he said.

BT has removed its monthly usage cap for people willing to pay £24.99 a month for super-fast broadband. Customers on this version of BT Infinity will also benefit from upload speeds of 10Mb a second – meaning they will be able to send large files to other people quickly. In stark contrast, Virgin Media’s upload speed – even on its 50Mb service – is 1.5Mb, though it is currently testing 10Mb.

Petter refused to give any prediction for how many people the company expects to sign up to its super-fast service but stressed “we expect this to be extremely successful”.

BT Infinity currently relies upon Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) technology – essentially running a new fibreoptic network to the green roadside cabinets that dot the country and then using traditional copper lines to connect individual houses. But BT is also testing fibre to the premise (FTTP) technology which is capable of speeds of more than 100Mb. BT reckons 75% of its target of 10m homes and businesses by mid 2012 will use FTTC, with the remaining 25% having access through FTTP


Sky loses challenge over ITV stake

Broadcasting giant BSkyB has lost its challenge at the Court of Appeal over the Government’s decision to force it to reduce its 17.9% stake in ITV.Sky began its legal challenge after a Competition Commission finding that the group’s shareholding gave it influence over ITV’s strategy in a way that restricted the market. The Government ordered the media group to ditch more than half the holding – down to below 7.5%.

A challenge at the Competition Appeal Tribunal was unsuccessful and three appeal judges ruled that the direction to reduce the shareholding must stand. Lord Justice Lloyd, giving the ruling of the court, refused permission to take the case to the Supreme Court but Sky can apply directly for a hearing.

The judge said the appeals by Sky and Virgin Media arose from the acquisition by Sky in 2006 of 696 million shares in ITV. A spokesman for Sky said after the hearing: “BSkyB notes the decision by the Court of Appeal in relation to BSkyB’s shareholding in ITV. We will review the judgment and order carefully and consider next steps in due course.”

Shortly before the share deal, Virgin had announced an offer worth about 122p a share whereas the Sky acquisition was at 135p a share, 17% above the share price of the day. The Government referred Sky’s deal to the Competition Commission, which found that the acquisition had created a merger situation and this was expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition which could operate against the public interest.

Sky won its appeal over the number of people controlling media outlets serving UK audiences, with the appeal judges reinstating the Commission’s conclusions that the acquisition would not operate against the public interest on this issue.


Virgin Media to trial piracy-detection software

For Alan Ellis, last week was a good one: he was acquitted of conspiracy to commit fraud. The prosecution had argued that the 26-year-old received at least £190,000 in donations to Oink, his filesharing website. Until Oink was shut down in 2007, it had, the crown claimed, helped 200,000 users illegally to download 21m copyrighted music tracks.

For the anti-piracy lobby, the verdict has been a serious setback, not least because it suggests the law hasn’t kept up with technology that allows the copying and transfer of copyrighted material. Ellis was the first person to be charged with conspiracy to commit fraud in relation to filesharing — though others have been convicted on lesser charges — and the crown was hoping for a conviction to send a strong message to filesharers.

Record labels and film studios claim the sharing of movies and songs by computer users costs them hundreds of millions of pounds. Now, though, new technology is coming to the aid of copyright holders. One of the UK’s largest broadband providers is trialling software it says can spot unauthorised downloaders. This could lead to their disconnection from the internet.

The BPI, the trade association of the British music industry, currently employs specialist firms to eavesdrop on people who make copyrighted material available to download. The firms record their IP address, a code that can then be used to identify the alleged filesharer’s internet account.

This process is costly and time-consuming. The BPI must first go to court and present evidence of wrongdoing by an individual to force a broadband provider to hand over the details of that person’s activities on the internet. The threshold of evidence is high, making it impractical for the BPI to pursue more than a handful of cases.

Now, however, Virgin Media is trying out new technology that can automatically detect if a customer’s broadband connection is being used to download copyrighted files illegally. Virgin, which has more than 4m UK broadband customers, offers the fastest connection speeds in Britain and is consequently a popular ISP for filesharers. Hit films such as Pirates of the Caribbean can be downloaded by Virgin users in minutes.

Called deep packet inspection (DPI), the detection technology categorises all internet traffic that passes over a customer’s connection — be that email, general web surfing or online gaming. Traffic identified as filesharing is subjected to a deeper scan and is said to be checked against a database of music and, potentially, films. Detica, the firm that runs the system for Virgin Media, claims it can tell within seconds whether the specific data being downloaded are, say, family photos or the latest Lady Gaga album.

Virgin and Detica insist that DPI is — for now — being used only to measure the level of illegal filesharing, not to snoop on customers. Indeed, they say the key piece of information — the IP address — is ignored in the process. This, of course, doesn’t mean the technology could not target individuals.

When asked whether the new software was able to identify filesharers, a Virgin Media spokesman said: “It could be, but the technology hasn’t been designed for that purpose. The IP information is discarded. It allows us to understand the exact nature of unlawful traffic on our network.”

Virgin’s plans have angered privacy advocates, who claim it is only a matter of time before the company is routinely fingering its own customers. “I think it is inevitable that Virgin will eventually use DPI to identify individual illegal filesharers on its network and, at the end of the day, it probably won’t be Virgin’s decision to make,” said Alexander Hanff of Privacy International, a lobbying group.

He believes the technology will work alongside government proposals to disconnect filesharers who ignore two written warnings to stop. “Peter Mandelson has made it very clear he wants ‘three strikes’ to come into effect, and the only feasible way to do this is for the ISPs [internet service providers] to police their networks using DPI.”

A spokesman for Lord Mandelson’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills denied the government had discussed using DPI to identify illegal filesharers, but left the door open for it to be used in future: “If warning letters backed by legal action do not prove as effective as we expect, then an additional obligation to introduce appropriate technical measures is worth considering,” he said


BT aims to undercut Sky on TV sport viewing packages

BT says it is ready to enter a price war with Sky over the price charged for fans to watch premium sports events, including football and cricket, on TV.

The telecoms firm is awaiting the outcome of an Ofcom probe, examining whether Sky must drop the wholesale price it charges rivals for content. BT Vision would aim to charge about £15 a month for Sky Sports 1, about £10 cheaper than Sky currently charges. The outcome of the investigation by the regulator will be known in March. A spokesman for BT told the BBC that there would be a benefit to the viewing public as they would be getting more choice.

‘Effective competition’

The Ofcom inquiry into pay TV is also looking at the price Sky charges rivals for access to Sky Movies. If Ofcom rules that Sky must cut its wholesale prices it means that the likes of BT and Virgin Media could pass on to any price cuts to their customers. BT would look to introduce a new price structure from the start of the 2010/11 football season.

When it launched its investigation in June, Ofcom said it believed “requiring Sky to make its premium channels available to other retailers on a wholesale basis is the most appropriate way of ensuring fair and effective competition”. BT and Virgin have struggled to make a dent in Sky’s viewing figures. Sky has 9.5m subscribers, Virgin has 3.7m and BT Vision has 436,000.

Loss on packages

Virgin Media currently charges between £16.50 and £24 per month for Sky Sports 1 depending on a customer’s TV package. The firm – formerly known as NTL – said it made a loss on every sports package sold because of Sky’s wholesale prices and also the need to remain competitive. “Ofcom’s proposals to cut wholesale prices for Sky Sports aren’t about subsidising Sky’s competitors,” Neil Berkett, chief executive of Virgin Media, told the BBC.

He said it was more about “creating a competitive market”, and that Ofcom had the means to “bring premium film and sport to millions more people at much lower prices”.