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Throttled customers rage over Virgin Mobile UK's tight cap

EE wasn't supposed to choke them

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Virgin Mobile UK's experiment with throttling is turning into nightmare as customers across the network complain of fragmented data services barely suitable for email let alone the promised 2Mb/sec.

The wireless mobile comms brand, which is run by Virgin Media in the UK, only recently started capping mobile data speed at 2Mb/sec. This was all for the benefit of customers who'd prefer a solid 2Mb to an unreliable, if faster, peak, but almost immediately customers started complaining that what they now had was a less reliable service, and a slower one, far from what they'd been promised.

"We're aware some customers are reporting they're experiencing an intermittent data connection on our mobile network and we're working with our network partner to resolve this as a priority" Virgin Mobile UK eventually told us, with assurances that progress was being made.

If the El Reg mailbag is anything to go by, it's more than a few customers, and thanks to all the readers who agreed to have their details passed on to Virgin during our enquiries, either our readership is almost exclusively Virgin customers or the problem is pretty widespread.

The "network partner" to which Virgin refers is EE, the UK's largest operator, on whose network Virgin is camped. EE also runs the T-Mobile brand so it's interesting to note that T-Mobile has reportedly introduced its own cap on data speeds - dialling the top speed down to 4Mb/sec - which is twice Virgin Mobile's but still less then the promised "Full Monty".

EE hasn't responded to our questions about that, though it's almost a year since the company refused to comment on a similar cap - having denied it was cutting customers off at 1Mb/sec.

Whether the caps are related we can't say, but the timing is coincidental, so T-Mobile customers might like to be alert to the random disconnections and sudden drops in speed which Virgin Mobe customers are reporting.

Capping connection speeds isn't evil: most mobile users would probably prefer reliability to fast data transfer rates - as long as the network operators are honest about it.

But to bring in caps without telling anyone, using a technique that leaves customers with flaky connections at best, is lamentable. One has to wonder if EE is more interested in emphasising the greater capacity of its 4G network than actually serving its 3G customers. ®

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