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Broadband creates new spot the ball contest
Tuesday 06 October 2009 11:11:15 by Andrew Ferguson

Anyone who has read the national press or listened to the radio in the last day or two will no doubt be aware that the Ukraine versus England match on Saturday 10th October is to only be made available online and in some cinemas, and not available via standard broadcast TV.

The website for the match coverage, lists the price as £4.99, with the price increasing to reach a peak of £11.99 on match day. Apparently, Perform Media Services Limited has set a limit of one million viewers in an attempt to ensure they can supply the match to all those who pay for it. The media coverage has focused on issues such as buffering, which is where the local computer creates a cache of a few seconds video in an attempt to smooth out the occasional frame drops that are almost inevitable with over the Internet streamed video. For live streaming though the buffering is a lot less than for a recorded event, which means a glitch created by someone else on your connection opening a webpage may mean you lose the picture or it goes grainy for a few seconds.

One million views of a stream that runs at 0.25, 0.5 or 1Mbps will be a big test of the UK Internet infrastructure. iPlayer is often seen as the big video bandwidth consumer, but the difference here is that people are viewing a live event, and have paid a minimum of £4.99 so expectations will be much higher.

The website for the stream does give some help and advice and informs people how to upgrade to Flash version 10 which the stream will use, and it should work on PC and Mac platform. The site does suggest a list of bad providers that use traffic management. There is some irony here as a provider using traffic management in a positive manner could cope better with the load and even if capacity was strained, ensure at least the lower bit rate video was available.

Usage warning: The 1Meg stream if running for two hours will use 1 GB (GigaBytes) of data, the 0.25Meg stream using around 0.25GB. So if you have a monthly usage allowance ensure you have enough spare allowance, or that any excess charges will not appear as a massive shock when you get the bill in a few weeks.

The Internet was never designed for live video broadcast events. It works very well for catch-up TV style systems where the load is spread out, but the spikes that live events can generate have the power to create problems for millions. Cooperation between content providers and broadband providers could alleviate some of this, e.g. if the stream was available via BT Vision, the capacity booking system associated with a video stream on BT Vision would mean people stood a good chance of an uninterrupted stream.

The situation for those who do subscribe but end up shouting at their computer and swearing at their broadband is covered in the terms and conditions for the match stream. The terms mean that if it is your broadband or the Internet as a whole that causes the problem then no refund will be forthcoming. At least there is a test stream so you can check that it should work before parting with hard earned cash.

(d)"Where the Site (or the Link, where applicable) is not accessible during the Match due to reasons within the Content Provider's control, the Content Provider shall use its reasonable endeavours to resolve such issues as soon as practicable to the extent that it is within its control to do so. If you fail to receive and view a substantial element of the Match due to any failure by the Content Provider to provide access to the Site (via the Link, where applicable) for reasons within the Content Provider's control, the Content Provider will acting reasonably refund such proportion of the Payment made by you as it decides is fair in the circumstances. This clause 3(d) sets out the full extent of your rights and remedies in respect of any failure by the Content Provider to provide access to the Site, which results in you not being able to view the Match."

Extract from Ukraine v England streaming site conditions

If broadband (in any country) is to embrace live broadcast style coverage then the infrastructure needs to change, media caches need to move out of the data centre and much closer to the consumer, possibly right down to the exchange level for large exchanges. This requires joined up thinking, which unfortunately all too often does not happen, as media providers/right holders often see the Internet as the opposition.

Update 1.15pm: Corrected the maths for the amount the stream will use, forgot bits to Bytes conversion.


Posted by meldrew over 8 years ago
I think this rather makes the point for proving the total uselessnes of live TV via the internet.....
Posted by miken06 over 8 years ago
A 1mbps stream is 1000/8 kbps right? = 125kbps
125 kbps = 125/1000 MBps = 0.125MB/s
0.125*60*60*2 = 900MB right?

No way it could be 7.2GB most people wouldnt be able to watch it.
Posted by miken06 over 8 years ago
Sorry first line should say,
A 1mbps stream is 1000/8 KBps right? = 125KBps
Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
It's best not to mention net neutrality this week then.

It's an ideal opportunity for ISP engineers to remove their hands and see what happens?

You could use it as a Digital Britain stress test. 1m users using 30 times their peak hour capacity for 2 hours during the peak period.

Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
A 1M line downloads about 120-125 kbytes/s, yes. *3.6 = 450 Mbytes/hour.

During peak hours, iPlayer pushes out 12GB of data every second, for comparison, and that's a few months old data. Equivalent to 96,000 viewers at 1Mbits/s.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
test site
Posted by uniquename over 8 years ago
@meldrew - a somewhat awry calculation there.

1Mbps = 8Kbps not 125kbps.
1Mbps = 125MBps
125*60*60*2 = 900MB which is the same result as Herwick arrives at though I don't like his figures on the way there either :). (I think it is just he has a typo).
Posted by uniquename over 8 years ago
And I too have a typo
1Mbps = 125KBps = 450MB/hour as per Herdwick!
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
"I think this rather makes the point for proving the total uselessnes of live TV via the internet"

There's not really much to add to that, but I'll try anyway...

Where are the multicast fanboys? At last, an opportunity for IP multicast to show its wonderful value?

And where is multicast?

Invisible, over the horizon, where it always has been and always will be as far as domestic broadband is concerned.
Posted by jelv over 8 years ago
The link they give for "bad ISPs" is for ISPs "known to cause trouble for BitTorrent clients or other P2P clients" - nothing to do with how they treat streaming video!
Posted by uniquename over 8 years ago
Oh good lord! Still wrong calc, and also addressed to the wrong poster :(.

1Mbps = 125KBps.
125KBps = 450KB/hour, over 2 hours = 900MB = 0.9GB as per miken06.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Corrected the maths, my bad, and admitted it in an update to the item.

On multicast, getting home routers to work has been the issue. Multicast to hardware in the exchange is one idea then unicast from there.

Perhaps I should let John do all the news.

Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
"And where is multicast?"

being discussed in Openreach GEA working groups for FTTx
Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
Check, if iPlayer uses its content distributions partners to distribute 12GBytes every second to support 96k users at 1MBits,

Perform need ten times this in content distribution agreement this for saturday night? and the content distribution partners need their peering contracts to support this amount of video.

At least we will get insights into the capacity of the UK internet.

Posted by winston_wolf over 8 years ago
The usage for an end user isn't the big deal, although something that still needs to be borne in mind by the individual. I do hope these folks have done their homework on their peering arrangements, and their content distribution deals, including rapid bandwidth upscaling if they do get a last minute surge.

1 million users x 1Mbit /sec = 1000G/sec = 1 Terabit/sec. Thats a lot of content server and peering bandwidth, order of magnitude more than the numbers a previous poster mentioned for iplayer, and that is known to cause network load issues with some ISPs during peak events.
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
1 Terabit/sec - eek, twice what LINX report as their peak.
Posted by Aqualung over 8 years ago
~ sigh My isp Entanets throttling will mean i wont be able to watch it.....would it be possible to move the match to 6 am sunday i think theres a bit of bandwidth available then.
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
Multicast is the Network equivalent of fusion power. It's always a couple of years away :D

I'm curious as how the provider is going to decide where a fault lies. Only mildly curious though - I have no actual interest in football :)
Posted by winston_wolf over 8 years ago
useful multicast is not achievable in 20CN / ipstream network architectures. With 21CN and similar LLU architectures it is at least feasible, lot of work to do to enable it though, internet based has many many hurdles to overcome. closed network multicast architecture (e.g. provider-specific IPTV ) it is much more plausible.

Posted by MrTAToad2 over 8 years ago
At least its being kept off ITV or BBC, which is good...
Posted by carrot63 over 8 years ago
"...but the spikes that live events can generate have the power to create problems for millions."

But as long as someone's making a fat profit why worry about anyone being inconvenienced?
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
Are BTw still sizing VPs from exchanges (and 21CN equivalent) based on 20kbit per second average per customer?

If so, a 2Mbit/s stream is equivalent to 100 concurrent "average" customers.

If only 100,000 people watch this via BTw-based ISPs, that's equivalent to TEN MILLION "average" customers all trying to get online at once.

"Multicast is the Network equivalent of fusion power. It's always a couple of years away :D"

:) :) :)

Broadband so cheap you won't need to meter it. Or was that nuclear electricity?
Posted by herdwick over 8 years ago
BTw size the VPs to match the traffic.

ISP centrals are often populated at around 30 kbits/s and this is also the case for the likes of Talk Talk LLU. Their average consumption is a few GB per month so this is adequate.

Tiscali, Tesco and other datastream users are also highly contended on exchange VPs - I get 10* the download speed of a neighbours Tesco line (similar sync) using a business ISP at 8pm.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
This is all going to go extremely wrong most likely. If they pull it off it'll be fantastic but I can't think of anywhere they can find a CDN capable of putting out the 100Gbps+ that this could require to clients exclusively in the UK.

Screaming advertisement of the need for multicast as previously mentioned too.
Posted by mikeblogs over 8 years ago
I had an email saying they were using Akamai, level3 and limelight, but no idea if there is sufficient peering capacity. All 365bet users can access a separate stream.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
herdwick is isps are only allocating 30kbit per user then this would confirm my thoughts that isps are overcontending users, 30kbit per user on a average 4mbit burst would be around 130:1 contention. If backhaul capacity was increased with burst speed (to maintain contention ratio) then each user would have had around 120kbit allocated to them at the central level. Compare to the 400kbit per customer easynet allocate and we see the problem for BTw isps.
Posted by c_j_ over 8 years ago
Wouldn't it be nice if ISPs were actually required to publish this kind of info (average bandwidth per punter used for sizing purposes) so customers could make properly informed decisions ? You know your water will arrive as contracted (usually), as will electricity and gas and phone, why should broadband be dishonestly oversold? Like overselling plane tickets only far far worse - and if airlines customers don't get what they paid for due to overselling, doesn't EU law now require compensation for the punter?
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
cmon Dawn, tell us all how good broadband is and why we can all manage on obsolete copper...
... this country needs fibre to the home. This one puny game that nobody particularly wants to watch is making people wake up and do the sums. Kudos to the game of footie. Bring on the fibre. ;) Hopefully before the olympiads arrive and expect a 'digital britain with high speed broadband' as GB promised. What an embarassment.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
No, that's your maniac rant.

I'll stick to working out what I can do with broad broadband coverage. Latency and packet loss are far more relevant to what I do, but thanks for trying.

c_j_ - All for transparency. But I'd point out that the small print of ISP contracts dosn't guarantee speeds and such.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 8 years ago
Upgrading the local loop to give everyone FTTH on its own will do nothing for contention in the middle mile.

Contention is a fact of life worldwide, otherwise if it were not then UK data centres would not be the UK as costs would be so cheap they could run them from a flat in some European or South Korean town where the connectivity is so cheap and good.
Posted by michaels_perry over 8 years ago
This was broadcast by the BBC on both terrestrial analogue and digital as well as satellite on Saturday evening! They could not announce it in advance as the agreement was only completed at the end of the match, so they interrupted Come Dancing to announce it. I'm not a football fan so didn't and wouldn't watch it.
Posted by Blood-Donor over 8 years ago
I could not see the point of this. It was a no-go from the outset. Watching football on a PC screen? Pointless, totally pointless.
All England Matches, regardless if they are friendlies or qualifiers should be aired free on TV. I pay my TV Licence for what? damn TV repeats and reality shows. Shame on the BBC and the others.
I hope that this was just a one off and never happens again. At least this Wenesday we`ll see England play on "TV" and not a small PC screen, and it`s free.
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