The Broadband Quality Monitor is a way to monitor the latency and uptime of your broadband connection for free.
We partnered with Firebrick and host a FB6000 device on our network, which registered users can register with, and see a live and historical graph showing the performance of their line with regards to ping times.
Once you have registered an IP address for monitoring, we will ping that IP address sending small ICMP echo requests. We send a ping every second, and average 100 seconds of pings for each point displayed on the graph.
Each ping is very small at only 28 bytes in size, so the average usage per month should be around 73.64 MB (MegaBytes).
Static IP addresses are ideal for monitoring as you only need to set up the IP address once. The BQM will work with a dynamic IP address, but every time the IP address changes you will need to manually update your profile.
With dynamic IP addresses coming from a pool of addresses, it is possible that if you don't spot your IP address changing, we will actually end up monitoring someone else's broadband connection.
If your graph is blank and you have only just registered the IP address do remember that each line of the graph represents 100 seconds of data. So it will take a few minutes before anything is displayed.
If your graph is solid red like this example:
Then double check that your registered IP address is correct, and that your broadband router that has been assigned this IP address. Check the router is configured to respond to ping requests on its WAN/Internet port. The option is sometimes referred to as 'reply to ICMP requests'.
We maintain a list of some routers with guides on how to configure them to work with the Broadband Quality Monitor in our Router Configuration Guides.
Our traceroute tool at www.thinkbroadband.com/tools/traceroute.html is an easy way of checking whether your router is responding, rather than waiting for the graph to update.
The latest version of the Virgin Media Superhub firmware (R36) hides the setting under Advanced settings > Tools > Ping - 'WAN Ping Respond', 'Respond to ICMP echo requests sent to WAN IP'
On the page which displays your current BQM graph, if you click the 'Show Previous Days' link you can pick historial data.
This can be useful for showing to your broadband provider if there is a persistent issue that affects you at the same time each day.
Note that older data (generally over 6 months) is currently archived off, but we hope to restore this at some point in the future.
Some broadband routers exhibit patterns of behaviour. This is often because ICMP is handled at a lower priority than other traffic, so if a router does some form of housekeeping at regular intervals you can see patterns not unlike the graph below:
This graph is from a Be/O2 connection, and is most likely using a Thomson 585 router. There is nothing wrong, and the spikes do not affect gaming. In this graph the extra yellow spikes between 3pm and midnight, probably mean the connection was actually being used.
The graph below is a great example of what a nice stable broadband connection should display:
The green area is stable across the 24 hour period, which means that the line is performing well. There is almost no blue on the graph, which tells us that in each 100 second period the latency stayed very close to the minimum which is around 16ms for this connection. The yellow (which is maximum latency) only spiked twice, at around 6:30pm and 10pm, which may represent someone opening a webpage or two at these times.
The red area of the graph, which runs along the top edge normally shows no packet loss most of the time, but there was a few packets lost at just after 7:15pm.
The BQM will usually show a red line that is one or two pixels wide stretching from the top to the bottom of the graph if a router is re-syncing.
A very common type of graph is shown below:
The graph above was from a connection, that was hosting a small webserver, and the yellow spikes represent when someone is downloading a small file or webpage from the server. The wider block of yellow spikes at 11:45am represent when the actual owner of the connection, probably started using the connection too.
The connection in this graph is good, as the amount of jitter in the latency represented by the blue area is still very small across the whole 24 hour period.
Interpreting your BQM graph is a combination of comparing a current graph to your history, and if you are seeing unusual patterns asking other users on the same ISP or from the same part of the country if they see similar patterns. We have collated a few commonly seen examples, and annotated them with our interpretation of what the connection is doing. All these graphs are taken from the same date/time.
This graph is showing consistent packet loss between 2% and 15%, which would making gaming or Voice over IP (VoIP) across the connection very difficult. The minimum latency is higher than average, which suggests a permanently congested link somewhere between the broadband router and our BQM Pingbox. The fact the blue area is still narrow suggests the packet loss is not due to the user downloading on the connection, but some issue in a core network. The toothcomb effect, is most likely an artefact from the broadband router in use on the line.
A classic example of peak time affecting latency, and suggests the provider in question is running its links at very close to capacity. The peak time starts at 4pm and continues until midnight. On this graph it looks as if the connection was used to download/upload something around 1am and 9am, with some more intermittent usage as the morning progressed.
This graph shows some usage in several blocks between 2pm and 10pm, but the point of interest is at 7am when the minimum latency jumps from 22ms to 40ms. There is a very narrow red spike at this time, which suggests a short resync by the router, this may have been due to noise, or a provider forcing interleaving onto a line to reduce the number of errors (though there is no evidence that this is needed on the line). The most likely explanation is the resync has jumped the user onto a different gateway at the ISP, which has a higher baseline latency. To ascertain what actually happened, more graphs from the same provider would need to be compared.
We are looking here at what is most likely a very busy broadband connection, perhaps with a combination of fast downloads and uploads happening at the same time. Saturating the upstream of a broadband connection will have a significant effect on latency. When a connection is very busy, it is not uncommon to see some packet loss, as the router will be very busy handling all the data transfers, and thus may ignore the ICMP (ping) requests occasionally.
This graph covers a different time period to the other graphs, but shows what effect a heavily congested link from an exchange to the wider internet can have. In this case the minimum latency climbs from a high but OK 40ms, to over 140ms at the busiest point in the evening. The consistency of the latency, i.e. wide green area with a narrow blue area helps to suggest this is not congestion from a single users line, but the effect of a much larger link becoming saturated. Anyone who is a gamer would not be able to play first person shooters with latency like this at peak times.
The IP address of our pingbox is 126.96.36.199, but you may want to use the domain name which is pingbox1.thinkbroadband.com in your firewall. Using the domain name means if we need to change the IP address in the future your firewall will still work properly.
We recommend allowing the whole subnet: 188.8.131.52/28. If you use IPv6, the IP address of the pingbox is 2a02:68:1::164.
One unusual but common effect is shown in the sample graph below. The repeated rising edge with a sharp drop off gives rise to the waveform name of sawtooth.
A graph of this sort appears to be common with users of the Sky LLU broadband service. It does not appear to represent an actual problem with the service, or affect any applications running across the connection. This is just one of those odd situations that a particularly router appears to cause.
The Broadband Quality Monitor runs currently on a single FB6000 device, which has the host name pingbox1.thinkbroadband.com. The IPv4 address of this device is 184.108.40.206.
Version R36 and later of the firmware used for the Virgin Media superhub on their cable broadband services, has resulted in a change to the user interface in regards to enabling ping/icmp responses on the WAN interface.