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Apple's iOS 5 breaks internet traffic records
Tuesday 18 October 2011 12:14:26 by Andrew Ferguson

The difficulty of predicting and coping with bandwidth demands is highlighted by the release of iOS 5 which created unprecedented levels of traffic demand, with BT Operate reporting that within BT's UK broadband network that peak usage exceeded previous massive events. The spike was in fact twice the size of the previous largest event, an England World Cup match that took place during business hours.

The BT network saw a spike that started at the launch of the new iOS operating system, and carried on through to midnight. The Thursday evening saw a more sustained spike, but was 10 Gbps (Giga bits per second) less than the Wednesday. To give some idea of the overall scale the Wednesday saw around 80 Gbps of extra traffic compared to a normal night.

BT Operate who look after BT Retail, Wholesale through BT Retail and other content providers networks stated that "despite the above increase in volumes within our core network we saw negligible issues with network congestion". The story across other providers appears to have been a week of an increase of complaints about rising latency and slower traffic, so before people jump ship from providers due to poor network performance it would be wise to wait a few more days and see if the performance returns to more normal levels.

The National Grid attempts to anticipate the level of demand at peak times, and broadband providers are in a similar position, but it seems past models of behaviour keep being broken. Cloud based computing and automatic updates to popular operating systems, if quietly slipped out the door, risk causing chaos, particularly if a situation arises where two competing devices release large updates at the same time.

Perhaps one good thing is that the UK broadband network did not go into meltdown, and showed a reasonable ability to cope with big spikes in demand which may become more common in 2012 with the Olympics. The load on fixed line broadband during 2012 is likely to be video from live events, where as for mobile services, it will be the constant updates to social networking sites, and the growing use of Eye-Fi devices to upload photos from digital cameras as they are taken to online photo sites.


Posted by cyberdoyle over 6 years ago
As long as we have such poor upload speeds in this country the networks will survive. Most residential connections are sub megabit as the cyberwave is showing
once folk get 'superfast' the networks will be even more congested or charges are gonna rocket...
Posted by Somerset over 6 years ago
cd- may not be true as faster connections mean quicker downloads. Total traffic remains the same.

Core networks are sized to meet demand.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago
Even on older IPStream products, upstream could reach 30% of the downstream total before a Central should have had trouble handling the traffic. Was a CPU limit at handling the traffic as oppossed to size of fibre in/out.

Some think you just splice two pieces of fibre, but you need intelligent devices to switch data across a network effeciently.
Posted by Alchemyfire over 6 years ago
Not sure if it was BT or Apple servers that couldn't cope, but I had endless issues on the Wednesday trying to update my iPhone.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
the Apple servers were struggling and a significant number of updates failed and bricked devices or left them requiring "special needs" - I've fixed a couple for others.

A better model would be download file overnight, validate file, install to device. None of this install file while yammering to a distant server nonsense.
Posted by herdwick over 6 years ago
why do people fail to buy the better upload speeds available Chris ? (not this it is in any way relevant to the topic under discussion).
Posted by GMAN99 over 6 years ago
The whole iTunes/iPod/iPhone update process is a joke, the amount of times I've tried to update my iPod only for it to fail and I have to download the whole file ... again?
Posted by ggremlin over 6 years ago
1) why are updates so big
2) bit-torrent was designed for things like this
3) multicast was designed for things like this
4) other broadcast methods are available
5) how big are their servers and links! <<huge!>>
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 6 years ago

1. Because they are not patches but complete firmware images mainly
2. Really? While torrents would save Apple bandwidth, they do this via Content Delivery Networks. Also torrents use consumer upstream as well as download.
3. Multicast - that assumes everyone is receiving same video frame at the same time, not for disting OS updates
4. For an internet connected device what other methods?
5. The downloads were from CDN, but authentication/verification was on the Apple servers.
Posted by ggremlin over 6 years ago
of course you are quite right, its actually very impressive to get that much data to so many devices 'on demand'
Posted by otester over 6 years ago

Maybe look into why Facebook/Twitter use it for system updates?
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