VirginMedia Superhub Problems July 2015
(DRAFT: Liable to change)
Installed: 31 Jul 2015
This paper is
A partial index of discussion notes is in
Virgin Media Letting Down Broadband Customers Again
Superhub2 (SH2) firmware update breaks modem-only mode
Despite the quality of the broadband service when things work well, VM sometimes
let customers down badly when something goes wrong and the
fault has been reported by many users, e.g. on the forum pages and possibly also
by phoning the service number.
They fail to announce the fault on their service status pages, or forum pages,
and fail to inform call centre staff, so that disgruntled users with a broken
service have to waste time trying to convince someone at the end of a phone line
that they are affected by a fault about which the VM staff seem to know nothing,
even though other VM staff have acknowledged the fault, e.g. buried in replies
to user postings on the forum.
So VM can waste customer time because call-centre staff perform irrelevant
tests, and in some cases (in my experience) arranging a call by a service
engineer when the problem being reported is not at the user site but somewhere
more central in VM's network and has already been reported by other users, and
discussed on forum pages.
Background: use of Superhub in 'modem mode'
I have been a VirginMedia broadband user for many years (initially using the
Cable and Wireless "blueyonder" service, which was then bought by Telewest and
later by VirginMedia).
When the system works the broadband download service is very good -- but upload
speeds are much slower, and for many years I was stuck with 3Mbps upload even
though I was paying for double that speed.
(I also have serious complaints about the design
of the Tivo system used for VirginMedia Cable TV -- among the worst user
interfaces I have met. I'll post descriptions of some of the design-flaws
Using superhub in modem mode
When the so-called 'Superhub' was provided to VM cable broadband users (in 2011)
there were many complaints. I found its wireless functionality very poor. Later
(in 2013) they announced the 'Superhub 2' (SH2) after trials that identified
many design flaws some of which were fixed. I was part of the trial. Some of us
got round the flaws by switching the SH2 into 'modem' mode, so that the device
did not perform any router functions: it merely provided a connection to the
broadband network. An attached router could then provide the required
functionality, e.g. a wifi service suitable for a medium to large house. For
more information on that episode see:
Since then I have had a mostly satisfactory broadband service from Virgin Media.
There was a considerable improvement when my download speed was changed from
60Mbps to 100 Mbps, and upload from 3Mbps to 6Mbps. It was the latter that I
noticed most, since download speeds are often limited by the source, or the
state of the internet between the source and a user. Having 100Mbps download
looks good when running tests (especially the test provided on the VirginMedia
network!), but the results need not be reflected in actual download speeds from
a variety of internet sites.
Superhub firmware upgrade disaster July 2015
A few nights ago I suddenly found that I had lost my broadband connection (while
working beyond midnight). I found that the SH2 kept rebooting, apparently
getting an IP address then losing it and either freezing or rebooting again. I
tried reporting this via the service centre, and first wasted about 20 minutes
getting no answer, then later wasted time doing tests that repeated what I had
already done and descriped to the operator. Eventually he told me that my router
(Dlink DIR-615, originally supplied by VirginMedia) was not supported and I
should disconnect it and connect my PC directly. To my surprise that worked, but
was a useless solution because the SH2 was in modem mode and only one device
could be connected to it. There was no wireless functionality.
I then explored the VM user forum and discovered that many users had found that
a firmware upgrade to SH2 had stopped it working properly in modem mode with a
variety of different attached routers (with some it worked). E.g. the problem
had been summarised here, in Message #81
SH2 Firmware upgrade to v2.01.03 broke modem only mode
There are now many messages from many users complaining about the problem, some
joining existing threads and others starting new threads, possibly because they
had not found the old threads reporting the same problem. (Evidence of very poor
The Superusers have been updated by Virgin Media.
This issue has been reproduced under their control and they are working with Netgear to produce a fix.
In a situation like this
This whole episode is evidence of seriously incompetent project management at
Virgin Media, not for the first time. I would have left VM long ago, but for the
fact that no other currently available broadband service seems to achieve the
speeds and reliability of VM's service -- it can run well for months at a time.
VM should inform all call centre staff that if they get
calls from users whose SH2 is in modem-only mode they should inform them of
the fault and offer to provide them with a replacement superhub known not to
have the fault (Super Hub 2ac (VMDG490)) or advise them to try using the SH2 in
router mode while waiting for the firmware to be fixed.
VM should ensure that their service status pages mention this fault and provide
links to forum pages and other pages giving information about it and possible
short and long term remedies. I.e. three weeks after this problem was first
reported on the Forum, the service status page should NOT state:
Broadband No known issues
This statement is a lie!
There is a known issue. It is a very serious and disruptive issue. There are
some known solutions -- replacement of Superhub, or reverting to use of Superhub
in router mode temporarily until the SH2 firmware has been fixed, or replacement
of existing router with a model that is known not to be affected by the SH2
The problem is how VM deals with faults when they do occur, including lying to
customers on their status pages, and failing to inform call centre staff about
known problems, wasting everyone's time, and probably increasing VMs support
costs, which ultimately have to be passed on to customers.
REFERENCES AND LINKS
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham