Virgin Media Suffers Broadband Outage, Again

Virgin Media is once again in the headlines for all the wrong reasons, after it suffered a second home broadband outage in a single day.

The British ISP experienced an outage in the early hours of Tuesday morning with its home broadband service, after users reported of problems to outage reporting website Downdetector, which peaked at around 8am BST with about 27,000 reports.

The outage did not affected Virgin’s television or mobile broadband services, and the ISP resolved those issues by 10.30am BST.

Second outage

But only hours after this, tens of thousands of customers began reporting internet access problems – only hours after the ISP said the earlier issue had been resolved.

The Downdetector website at 4pm BST Tuesday 4 April showed a peak of more than 54,000 reports of problems, mostly around internet connectivity, with the outages being resolved between 7pm and 10pm.

Virgin Media confirmed the second outage on Twitter, and once again apologised to impacted customers.

“Unfortunately we have seen a repeat of an earlier issue which is causing intermittent broadband connectivity problems for some Virgin Media customers,” it tweeted.

The outages angered existing Virgin Media customers, and it comes after the ISP (alongside other British ISPs) had contacted customers to advise them of price increases – averaging at a 13.8 percent higher bill.

“Because of YOUR company I haven’t been able to see what time sunset is as I am currently observing RAMADAN the holy month if you did not know,” tweeted one user.

“Switched to Virgin in Feb, big mistake!!” tweeted another. “Headache ever since. From residential to business, complete lack of customer care. Business customer service is laughable. My husband lost s client today, AGAIN, as we’ve no internet, and I (disabled) can’t use my emergency pendant!!!!!”

“Refund some of our bill then please,” tweeted another.

Virgin Media is used by roughly 5.8 million home broadband users across the UK, according to its latest figures.

Expert take

The two outages at Virgin Media were noted by Angelique Medina, head of internet intelligence at Cisco ThousandEyes (a network intelligence specialist), which had been tracking the problems with the British ISP.

ThousandEyes said on Wednesday that it had observed that Virgin experienced two outages yesterday, which shared similar characteristics, including the withdrawal of routes to its network, traffic loss, and intermittent periods of service recovery.

“The first incident began at approximately 00:30 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time, 1.30am BST) and appeared to coincide with a series of BGP route withdrawals by Virgin Media UK, which significantly constrained its availability to the global Internet,” noted Medina.

“Without a route to its network, Internet and transit providers around the world would have simply dropped traffic destined to services and endpoints within Virgin Media UK’s network,” said Medina. “Users would have experienced the drops as prolonged connection attempts that eventually failed.”

“Traffic was dropped at Virgin’s network edge, suggesting the network operator was experiencing systemic duress (likely impacting its control plane), thus preventing it from ingesting and routing traffic within its network,” Medina added.

“Over the nearly 7-hour incident, brief periods of service restoration were interspersed throughout,” said Medina. “The initial outage eventually resolved at approximately 7:20 UTC.”

“The second incident was less prolonged than the first one, starting at around 15:20 UTC and resolving at approximately 17:30 UTC,” said Medina.

“The conditions surrounding the outage were the same as the initial event, with similar patterns of route withdrawals, traffic loss and brief periods of service restoration,” Medina concluded. “Recurrence of a near identical incident later in the day could indicate that the triggering mechanism for the first incident was either not fully understood or was not completely resolved.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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