Virgin Media UK Start Phase 2 of Smart Support to Boost Broadband Reliability

Broadband ISP Virgin Media (O2) has begun the second phase of their effort to deploy the new “Smart Support” service, which aims to boost the reliability of internet connections by proactively identifying and tackling issues remotely at no extra cost. So far only 50,000 users have benefitted from this since its April 2024 launch (here), but new customers will now join them.

Just to recap. The Smart Support service is built on technology from Cisco’s ThousandEyes (formerly SamKnows) platform (i.e. cloud-based data sets and advanced device identification technology), which initially targeted broadband customers “whose connections will be checked throughout the year as the service learns and evolves” (i.e. it monitors for things like speed drops and disconnections), before being rolled out more widely.

NOTE: The offer of a free engineer visit excludes problems caused by misuse, neglect and accidental damage.

Should smart support detect any potential connection issues to the WiFi Hub, then Virgin Media will reach out to the customer, offering guidance and simple fixes. The ISP debatably claims to be the “first major telecoms provider to proactively reach out to customers to improve their broadband experience“, which they say has seen “positive results to date with smart support resulting in a more reliable connection and less time offline for customers currently receiving the service” (no stats are provided to support this).

The smart support process is currently being rolled out in phases – adding new features as it goes, with Phase One monitoring enrolled customers’ broadband service (c.50,000 users). By comparison, the latest Phase Two will enhance the onboarding journey and make it available to “new fibre customers“, albeit presently only for the first 14 days of service to “ensure a smooth installation period.”

Smart Support’s Multi-Layered Approach Includes:

➤ Always-on monitoring: Using smart support technology to constantly monitor the customer’s broadband speeds and connection performance.

➤ Problem solving: If a fault is detected, the WiFi Hub will work automatically overnight to try and resolve the issue.

➤ Tailored advice: If the suspected issue cannot be fixed remotely, the customer will be sent personalised advice on how they can try to resolve the issue themselves.

➤ Easy to book expert help: Should this be unsuccessful; the customer will be invited to book a free engineer appointment at a time that suits them.

As we recall, Phase Two will later be followed by Phase Three (date TBA), which will add machine learning to help fix faults and prevent them from reoccurring. Smart support will also develop to support digital TV issues (e.g. buffering) in the future, but for now it’s focused purely on the core internet connectivity angle.

The other benefit of this approach is that it could reduce calls to Virgin Media’s support lines, since customers won’t need to manually report all faults. But we should point out that proactive monitoring of broadband lines is something that other ISPs have also adopted, albeit to varying different levels of effectiveness and sophistication. Sometimes this comes as part of a premium add-on, while in other cases it’s a default feature.

However, one issue stems from Virgin Media’s use of contradictory language around the availability of Phase Two, which might cause some confusion: “T&C’s: Smart support: Subject to availability. Currently Fibre broadband only (excludes Full Fibre).” So at present this only seems to work on Hybrid Fibre Coax (HFC) lines and not FTTP, but it’s unclear whether the “full fibre” exclusion extends to both XGS-PON and RFoG lines (we’re checking).

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