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O2 off-net customers now have traffic management
Wednesday 07 October 2009 10:35:51 by Andrew Ferguson

Headlines of 'O2 introduce traffic management' sound serious, but the reality is that the introduction of management for peer to peer and newgroup applications will only affect those O2 broadband customers who are not on the firms own unbundled network.

The product affected is the O2 Home Broadband Access, which is priced from £17.13 and was perhaps one of the last unlimited/unmanaged consumer products on the BT Wholesale ASDL platform. This unlimited nature at an attractive price point has lead to various problems with the system, whereby congestion has been causing large rises in latency and a slowing down of things like web access.

Traffic management has been part of the UK broadband landscape since 2001, so O2 is just the latest in a long line to enter the area, and it appears some of the past lessons have been learnt. The information on traffic management is mentioned on the Access product page, with a more detailed page that outlines what the traffic management will do, the main part being that it will only operate between 8pm and 11pm. The first version of the page listed the common applications that are affected, but this has been removed, leaving the consumer to know what a peer to peer program is.

As one would expect The Register has covered this item, but compares the O2 Access restrictions to the Virgin Media cable products, when in reality the fair comparison is with Virgin Media National (Off-net) ADSL products. Consumers with the Virgin ADSL product are complaining of traffic management or congestion in the evenings. Whether their partnership with C&W for LLU services will improve things is hard to know at this time.

To suggest as Chris Williams of The Register does that this management is "to squeeze the most out of its existing network capacity mirrors that of BT" is not fully accurate, since the BT Total traffic management is much more widespread, with Option 1 customers seeing BBC iPlayer streams limited, whereas O2 claim to be making these changes to improve performance of applications like iPlayer and web browsing.

What proportion of the 400,000 O2 customers are on the Access product is unknown, but from the volume of posts on our forums and other places it seems fair to say that those on the unbundled network is much larger than those using the Access product.

Comments

Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
"£17 unlimited broadband via BT Wholesale over subscribed" other news items :-
"Pope confesses to being Catholic"
"Bears found defecating in woods"
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
@herdwick:

Quite. It's not rocket science is it. The clued-up ISPs knew they didn't want/couldn't afford the nomadic hordes of destructive mickeytakers anyway, quite how O2 ever thought they'd be able to cope with no quotas, no TM and a vaguely sensible price is a bit of a puzzle.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Don't blame the "mickeytakers", they're just using the product they were sold. Blame the prices ISPs have to pay - it's no wonder they've got congestion.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
@ElBobbo:Then the ISPs should pass those costs onto their customers.

Better yet pass them on as a surcharge based on usage. That way the average user will likely escape the cost and only those abusing the network and trying to operate a file sharing server from home will have to pay.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Offtopic, but upload is not metered usually - because it's bloody rubbish over adsl - so file servers from home are not going to be the problem.

I don't think that throttling users is the answer, but at the same time I don't believe that ISPs are being charged reasonable amounts by BTW. It strikes me that as people use their connections for more than email and surfing, they're going to be quickly frustrated by congestion/traffic management. They'll pass that frustration on to the ISPs who will pressure BTW and Ofcom for better transit costs.
Posted by Aqualung over 5 years ago
Yet they are still allowed to call it unlimited.

Bizarre
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 5 years ago
So as usual, it's going to become useless for gaming because streaming video takes priority. Woo. Sigh.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"I don't believe that ISPs are being charged reasonable amounts by BTW. "

Have a look at AAISP's blog. AAISP offer services based on BTw and more recently based on Be/O2 wholesale. Although the Be/O2 pricing is less expensive per user GB than the BTw per user GB, AAISP still foresee the need for a usage-based element in their tariffs, even without BTw in the picture.

"better transit costs."

The most significant cost for any BTw-based ISP is not "transit", it's connecting the ISP to the end user, which might be called the "access network".
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Or "transport", yes, it's been argued before, but BTW also call it transit over their MSILs to the Aggregation Points.

Anyway, neither UkOnline or Be/O2 have needed to implement traffic management or limit their "unlimited" connections over their LLU networks.
I don't have any figures for AAISP (but they are rather small) so I can't comment on them.
Posted by andrewdb over 5 years ago
I welcome the traffic management which will improve the service for those of us not on a mission to download the internet! At least o2 are upfront about it! I've been on o2 access since January & been v. happy. The last couple of weeks i've noticed web browswing getting sluggish in the evenings but it's still usable. I don't game, don't watch much iPlayer or lots of downloads..just your basics of email and web browsing most of the time. There's always been a fair usage policy so those looking to take all they can eat from the eat as much as you like buffet really shouldn't complain.
Posted by andrewdb over 5 years ago
Incidentally dawn, o2 access is not really a good choice for gamers as interleaving is switched on so ping times are longer anyway.
Posted by andrewdb over 5 years ago
..besides they aren't prioritising streaming video over gaming .. it's peer-to-peer and newsgroup services they are traffic managing which in turn will free up bandwidth for video streaming as well as game players. Guess you didn't read the full info?
Posted by andrewdb over 5 years ago
Oh and another thing Andrew's article is inaccurate in that it says the list of applications was removed.. clicking "find out more" takes you to
http://broadband.o2.co.uk/home/traffic.jsp
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 5 years ago
There's no clear way without extensive DPI to tell between those applications, especially if it's to catch "stealth modes", without shitcanning /any/ p2p traffic (via traffic analysis, not DPI).

And I did read the "full info," andrewdb - allowing streaming a full priority on a link anywhere near full kills gaming dead.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
I would imagine that the AAISP over Be usage issue is Be/O2 protecting their own customers rather than an inherent capacity limitation.

As for costs - I was under the impression that most of Be's network ran over BT infrastructure anyway. There might not be much scope for reducing costs.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Well, according to the post Be usage costs are about 1/6th that of 21CN costs and 1/15th that of 20CN costs.
Be runs over LLU, so the only part that BT (Openreach) handles is the last mile from the customer to the local exchange (the so-called Metallic Path Facility). Be's network handles it from there.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
@ElBobbo:I have read several posts over the years (including one on their customer forum which wasn't contradicted) from people saying that Be tend to use BT's BES for the exchange backhaul. Most of these date from before the takeover so I don't know if that is still true or not.

At the time from what I remember it was described as mostly a star network centered around Birmingham and London with the arms of each star being BES daisy chains.

Of course things have moved on now and I don't know anything about their core.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
According to an article on www.financialdirector.co.uk: "... BT's backhaul product, Backhaul Extension Service (BES), provides the only method that operators can use to connect from BT's local exchanges to their own networks."
It seems that there's little choice for LLU ISPs, I don't know whether this is because it's not allowed for any of them have fibre into the exchange or they just mean that there are no other providers of backhaul from the exchange except for Openreach.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Also, it seems that the BES products have a distance limitation of 25km (radial). How does that work?
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
LLU ISPs can put their own networking into exchanges or they can use Openreach BES, down to them.

A radial distance of 25km or a route up to 40km for BES allows interconnection to BT or other networks at regional handover points.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
So why would Telefonica complain that there were no other backhaul providers?

There are LLU'd exchanges further than 40km from London, so either they must be using another BT fibre product or they have a half-way network.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
"but upload is not metered usually" - many of the metered and FUP operators do include upload, for example BT Retail.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
*further than 25km
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Some, indeed, but not most.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
"So why would Telefonica complain that there were no other backhaul providers?" - you would have to ask them, perhaps they are bone idle and haven't looked or maybe lying to maintain some public position or other.

They may be saying there isn't another provider already in place but C&W and Easynet put their own networks into exchanges to name but two.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
obviously there are LLU exchanges further than 25km from London but you don't have to go to London just to the nearest regional handover point or PoP. You ccould connect to BT's exchange in Peterborough for example which is a node on their core network, so the traffic thereafter isn't BES as such.

I suspect most customers have metered upstream if not most operators. BT, Virgin, Talk Talk meter it.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
There are various alternative backhaul providers but afaik none have the total national coverage which only BT offer. These companies could in principle compete with BT nationally, but why would they when BT could change their tariffs at a stroke (as they just did with wholesale broadband) and destroy the backhaul providers business? So the already-profitable areas have multiple providers competing for who can be cheapeast and the rest of the country gets BT's barely-regulated monopoly.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
revk gave an indication of how overpriced BTw is.
in summary, to connect a customer who uses no traffic, it costs more on BE than BTw. However for that customer to use traffic it costs more on BTw than BE, a LOT more. WBC costs 6x as much as BE for usage (after the 50% cut), 20CN 20x as much as BE, however the connection costs BE costs 4x as much as BTw. It seems to me the way BTw is priced is to encourage mass signup of customers and then to heavy contend them. As it encourages low base pricing with heavy usage costs.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
so how do the two compare at (say) 5,10,50,100 GB/month ?

Low base pricing for light usage is probably exactly what the ISP market demands, witness Talk Talk provisioning LLU at 33 kbits/s for their <10 GB/month average use and using traffic management to hold down demand.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
http://www.aaisp.net.uk/broadband-be.html
"There is then an extra £23 (£20+VAT) per month for each line that is BE not BT."
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
as long as a first generation network is in place then all the people can expect is first gen internet. So no streaming, no big downloads/uploads, just a few emails and websites. Jobs a goodun. Rake in the money for BT wholesale. Give the ISPs a hard time. Throttle the people. We don't want anyone having any fun, being innovative, competing globally for markets.
Throttling is covering up the fact that the network can't cope at peak times.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 5 years ago
On the other hand the next gen network with fibre to the home replacing the obsolete copper and exchanges will deliver what the country needs, with no throttling, capping or anything else. Just like the fat pipes we have for water and electric. You get as much as you want and are prepared to pay for. The days of copper are numbered. BT will milk the system then hand it over to government and bail out.
Posted by c_j_ over 5 years ago
"so how do the two compare at (say) 5,10,50,100 GB/month ?"

As with many sensible ISPs, there's a world of difference at AAISP between 100GB/month at peak time (no sensible ISP wants customers like that) and 100GB/month during the wee small hours (affordable as long as it doesn't cause congestion anywhere, just ask Enta about their 300GB off peak). Feel free to look further if you wish.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
herdwick I would say is the result of market manipulation by ofcom, so they can take credit for high takeup of broadband. Now we have the aftermath which is high contention, low investment, and of course people complaining about things like iplayer been throttled. Lets see how well this 33kbit provisioning works when the era of media streaming takes hold, right now in infancy stage.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 5 years ago
Ahh, cyberdoyle is indulging his idiot, er fibre magic bit again. No, FTTH would not *in any way* affect this. Heh.
Posted by pigfister over 5 years ago
they built up a huge customer base using the "we dont traffic shape" sales pitch.

now they are over subscribed and because the toc stated that they would throttle you if you deteriorated the network they have a get out of jail free card from people wanting to leave the service.

another scum bag corporation that put profit before its customers.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
huge customer base my ass, Be failed to get a sustainable customer base and O2 bought them to offer bundled broadband to mobile customers. The sole selling point of O2 to the masses is PRICE, as their LLU product is sold for a song.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
c_j I was after a Be Wholesale vs BT Wholesale comparison at the different usage levels, from chrysalis' description of the much higher fixed charge and lower bandwidth charge. Presumably the two lines of monthly cost vs usage cross at some point.

LOL @ the fibre fantasist (it's a she) who believes fibre is free and infinite. Hasn't spotted that the backhaul and backbone is fibre now so as Dawn says, what changes.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
Expectations - the greater the last mile (and hence the "speed" that ISPs advertise) the more people expect from their connections. Unlike ADSL, BT can't automatically discard any problems by using fibre as a scapegoat, so they're going to get a lot more complaints if the backhaul isn't improved in line with the last mile.
Which, by the way, is not impossible - see any of the fibred up nations (Sweden, South Korea, Japan) - all have great in-country networks, not considering international transit limitations.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
Sweden is "less fibred" up than you propagandists would have us believe - 479,000 fibre subscribers of which 50% are FTTB (multiple apartment blocks). Fibre penetration increased from 9.1% in Dec 2008 to 10.9% in Jun 09.
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
@Herdwick:What changes is that the current backhaul and core would be put under significantly more load than at present.

@CyberDoyle:FTTH right now would screw the end user royally. I expect (hope, really) that from a technical POV backhaul and core have the physical capacity if someone is prepared to pay to light the fibre. The problem is finding someone willing to pay.

I don't see a change of heart from ISPs so FTTH = more congestion and more traffic shaping.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
Herdwick whilst price is a factor for O2 getting customers, I think its arrogant to suggest they gained no customers for the fact they do not protocol shape, O2 gained customers on both BE's good reputation and the fact they had the last remaining affordable unshaped unlimited ipstream product left.
Posted by herdwick over 5 years ago
I'm sure they gained some of the type of customers you describe, but that's hardly a mass market. Be's good reputation, for those that had heard of it, wasn't enough for them to acquire sufficient user numbers to be sustainable.

O2's broadband penetration within its mobile user base is still very low, even the giveaway pricing has only bagged 400,000 total users from its 24 million mobile subscribers.
Posted by ElBobbo over 5 years ago
"Propagandist", herdwick, really?

FTTB is a perfectly good way to deploy fibre, so I don't understand what you're getting at there. As for FTTH penetration, you're just trying to spread manure (to what end I don't know). 10.9% penetration puts Sweden at the top of the list of countries with FTTH - heck, even Ireland with 0.31% beats the UK.
Posted by chrysalis over 5 years ago
herdwick perhaps isps need to stop thinking about penetration and rather revenue per customer instead? a few people think market saturation has long past.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 5 years ago
This story is no shock, just another ISP crippled by what BT charge and thus can no longer offer unlimited to customers through the BT part of their service.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 5 years ago
Another ISP who falsely offered the moon. That's the ISP's fault, and is called "false advertising". They knew the terms BT offered, and decided to lie to their consumers rather than offer a proper package.

Ofcom just refuse to crack down on "unlimited".
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