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Tiscali response to recent news on ISPReview
Wednesday 20 October 2004 15:55:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Over on ISPReview are some comments from Tiscali over the recent 'you are downloading too much' letters. Tiscali is an ISP that seems to pop in and out of the news regularly, the number of complaints has died down compared to earlier in the year, so for a while things were looking better. But recently we have started to see a rise in problems with both download speeds and latency (which affects gamers).

The Tiscali spokeswoman told ISPReview: "We operate a contention ratio of less than 20:1 and some of these users are downloading over 150Gb a month. The industry average figure for a broadband user downloading is 1.85Gb a month so 30x times this is in excess of 50Gb, which is well above the limit Wanadoo has set for its top 1Mb product (30Gb).".

Running the network at 20:1 may sound really good, and is a nice sales pitch, but many commentators have said in the past that anything actually running at around this level will not work well. In the main the BT Wholesale 50:1 contention service runs at levels no where near 50:1 or often even 20:1. Part of the Tiscali problem in the past has been their Datastream network which covers around 80% of the BT network. Often it would appear Tiscali would rent the minimum backhaul of say 2Mbps for over 100 customers each with 0.5Mbps, for their customers, and from paperwork we have seen this would often be running flat out for much of the day. Tiscali have tried various 'fair use' systems in the past and we are not sure if it or something similar is running now. These work by limiting the speed of the heavier users at peak time. In the ideal word an ISP will run its network so that it only runs at peak bandwidth for a short time of the day, since running at 100% utilisation tends to cause problems with latency, and sometimes introduces packet loss due to time-outs.

The most striking fact is that Tiscali say they have people downloading over 150GB per month, which as they sell only a 0.5Mbps connection is pretty amazing, since on a 31 day month, the maximum is 155GB.

At the end of the day residential broadband products in any country are not designed to be used to their maximum speed every day in a month. The low price of residential broadband is the result of sharing bandwidth between users, the key is to attract a wide cross section of users, and have a network that will cope well with peak demand. One possible problem with providers reducing prices and introducing capping, is they may use smaller networks, and neglect the fact that most people will go online at the same time. Therefore the peak usage for a capped product, may actually not be much different from an unmetered product.


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