VIRGIN Media have launched a new range of broadband deals aimed specifically at online gamers, based on their superfast up to 200Mb fibre.
The Vivid 200 Gamer contracts range from a nine-month broadband-only package aimed at students, to a standard broadband and phone deal with a discounted price for the first 12 months.
Virgin say the package has been designed in collaboration with online gaming companies, and should therefore offer a better experience - but serious gamers may find the changes don't go quite far enough.
Each Vivid 200 Gamer option costs an extra £5 per month compared to the equivalent standard 200Mb package.
Customers paying the extra should benefit from totally unlimited usage, and a higher maximum upload speed - more on both of those below.
And as this is Virgin, everyone bar those looking at the student terms can choose between getting the Gamer plan with or without a phone line:
|Package||Contract||Upfront price||Monthly price|
|Vivid 200 Gamer (standard contract, no phone line)||12 months||£20||£42.25|
|Vivid 200 Gamer (student contract, no phone line)||Nine months||£20||£52|
|Vivid 200 Gamer + weekend calls||12 months||£20||£42
for 12 mths,
We're aware that there'll be people looking at the mention of totally unlimited broadband above and wondering how that's different from what everyone else with Virgin Media broadband gets.
While customers can download to their heart's content, Virgin are unusual in that they have very detailed rules regarding how much users can upload, and anyone going over those limits will find their upload speeds seriously throttled for at least the next hour.
The Gamer deals are all exempt from traffic management - so gamers and other heavy uploaders won't have to worry about exceeding an hourly limit and suddenly finding themselves slowed to a virtual halt.
That might sound like an exaggeration, but bear in mind that Virgin are in the strange position of offering the fastest widely available connections when it comes to downloading but being beaten by most of their BT-based rivals when it comes to upload speeds.
Some of this is, ironically, because of the different networks they use to deliver their services.
Providers using BT Openreach to deliver their fibre broadband can choose from three different upload speeds when putting together their fibre deals: up to 2Mb, up to 10Mb and up to 20Mb.
Those selling up to 76Mb fibre usually plump for the 20Mb upload option; up to 38Mb deals vary as to whether they offer the 2MB or 10Mb upload profile. BT and Plusnet both offer uploads of up to 10Mb with their 52Mb fibre.
There are occasional notable exceptions to the above rule of thumb - for example, until last summer Plusnet offered the top upload profile to their 38Mb fibre customers.
By contrast, Virgin Media's upload speeds are as follows:
|Package||Standard upload speed|
|Vivid 152 / 200||12Mb|
|Vivid 200 Gamer||20Mb|
It's not unusual then, for someone with an up to 76Mb deal from the likes of BT, Sky or EE to be able to get faster uploads than those with Virgin's 200Mb broadband - and if the Virgin Media customer went over their upload limit, they'd see their activity slowed even further.
Even so, as we explain in our guide to broadband for gamers, upload speed is only part of the equation.
The factors that many veteran gamers will be wondering about aren't directly addressed by either the relaxed traffic management or the boosted upload speed - although the latter may help slightly.
What's more important for serious gamers is how smooth a connection they have - so they'll be looking for low latency (also referred to as lag or freezing, something most of us will understand only too well) and jitter.
For the non-gamers, jitter refers to a ping rate (speed of reaction) that varies considerably in a short time; obviously we want a quick response, but we also want it to be consistent.
Virgin say the Gamer package has been designed "in collaboration with gaming organisations including leading UK eSports group, Gfinity", which suggests that they have taken those issues into account.
Gregor McNeil, managing director of Virgin Media Consumer, adds to that impression when he says they understand users' "frustrations when it comes to lag, disconnects and bandwidth issues".
That last factor may be the most important when it comes to the success of Virgin's Gamer packages, however. Students aren't the only gamers out there, but their age group does play online more than any other.
In a shared house, where each person has multiple devices, 200Mb means every one of them should get an acceptably fast connection.
A service that really prioritises gaming over everything else isn't likely to be as popular with every housemate as one that offers the best possible connection to everyone, whatever they're doing.
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