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ntl:Telewest in the traffic management game
Tuesday 21 November 2006 16:25:00 by Andrew Ferguson

Traffic management has always been a double edged sword, as providers give individuals faster and faster connections there is an increasing need to ensure that a handful of users cannot adversely affect others services. ntl:Telewest are the latest to go public with the use of traffic management, though after earlier news in 2006 this should be no massive surprise to subscribers. Talk of traffic management has been surfacing on our ntl and Telewest sections for a short while, and The Register has more on the matter from Telewest.

The side that says traffic management is needed is the camp that is using applications like gaming and their broadband to make telephone calls (Voice over IP), at peak times without some extra help on a crowded network, time critical services can suffer, and as has been witnessed in the past can if a provider gets caught out by a sudden surge in demand become almost impossible. Those against it will often be those adversely affected by the shaping, very often this is those who make use of peer to peer or newsgroup services. Peer to peer often brings with it visions of people downloading copyrighted material, but that market has moved on and increasingly commercial companies are using it as a way to distribute content without the company itself spending a fortune on infrastructure. This new growth in peer to peer while efficient for one side of the model, is perhaps not as efficient from the broadband providers point of view.

Service providers walk a very fine line in keeping both camps happy. The provider wants to avoid the need to spend large amounts on extra capacity, but offer faster speeds to keep attracting people to a service but the retail price very often remaining static, which means something has to give, hence traffic management. What a provider must not lose sight of is whether its more demanding users are key drivers in the popularity of an ISP, broadband providers do seem to generate a type of loyalty, which some providers encourage via referral schemes, but this swings both ways, annoy the customer with lots of referrals and you can lose a lot more than one customer.

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