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back to article UK broadband speeds crippled during 'rush hour'

Broadband download speeds in the UK dramatically fall at peak times, according to new research by online comparison site uSwitch. The outfit said that between 7pm and 9pm, download speeds drop off by an average of 35 per cent when most people are accessing the internet from home. It based the company's findings on more than two …

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Anonymous Coward

In other news, the Earth isn't flat.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In other news, the Earth isn't flat.

Yeah... the bits have to slow down to get round the corners.

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Mine doesn't:

Off-peak = http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/results/id/131935597084155727168.html

On-peak = http://www.thinkbroadband.com/speedtest/results/id/13210443359889244131.html

But then I haven't chosen to go for the cheapest ISP. I pay a bit extra to have a decent service from Be.

I think it's rather ironic that uSwitch should be talking about this issue because contention (which is the issue here) is directly related to the cost of a service. Last I heard uSwitch was almost entirely about finding the cheapest deal so arguably it's them and companies like them that have caused this issue.

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FAIL

Shock News - The Pope is a Catholic!

Uhh ... hello? Its called Contention. If you want an uncontended service, pay for it.

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Unhappy

Feel sorry

I feel sorry for those poor people of Evesham whose speeds drop to a figure I can only dream of attaining on my own broadband under ideal circumstances!

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Anonymous Coward

Valuable research

In other news, bears...woods, pope..., etc

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Joke

Provide evidence, please

Until I've seen a paper from a reputable institution, there's no way I will accept that the Pope shits on bears in the woods.

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Coat

That's NOT what he and the Cardinals are doing in the woods...

...something entirely different.

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Anonymous Coward

Not surprising

Surely this is not a surprise to anyone? Just like the roads, they fill up when people use them.

I find the rush starts just after 3pm as the kids start getting home from school. And then ramps up to the worst during the 7pm to 9pm time slots as iPlayer and gaming kicks in at a higher level. Have often seen this with many of my clients.

This is when it is nice living near a university building or a business district like I do. Lots of spare capacity for the evenings. :)

It also explains why some people get such different experiences with the same supplier. You only need a handful of kids in your street who get home and start torrenting and you will always get a slow connection.

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Games

It might not help with the number of games that either need a connection before you can even fart and the way that as soon as the kids get home then the 'adults' get home it's off to the multi-player realms. That and the increase of on-line telly catch-up.

Some of us set our torrent clients to scan the files and then turn the machine off once the download is finished - then go to bed.

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Stop

Hang on..

Surprised this is reported on the register (in a serious manner anyway). It's only news to the masses who think they will get 24mbps internet guaranteed, and if they dont, it's because they need a new computer.

Though what you say about living near a university building or business district confuses me, particularly the former.

Are you actually saying that students don't use much bandwidth?

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WTF?

Broadband or Internet slowdown ?

It would have been more helpful if the uSwitch report had distinguised between the broadband network and the internet and content providers.

The most recent Ofcom report (May 2011) shows a slow down of ~ 10% at peak times. These measurements are done on a much more careful basis and cover the connection from a major internet peering point to the customer. Of course some geographic areas may be worse (and some not so bad).

See http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/research/telecoms-research/bbspeeds2011/bb-speeds-may2011.pdf (page 35). Not as dull as you might expect!

The uSwitch report is a bit short on detail, but proabbly includes the slow down due to the internet and servers outside of a providers network. That is of course what the customer sees in reality, but its wrong to focus on broadband providers for the problem

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Unhappy

"A pitiful 2.1mb/s" well fantastic, that is 3x my normal speed regardless of time of day.

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Anonymous Coward

Eeee lad You were lucky.

"BT Retail invests heavily in bandwidth to ensure its customers get a good online experience during the busy periods. "

Oh really?

Well to be fair my HALFmeg never drops - PFFFFFT !

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Typical,

All statistics and no context, how much of that is affected by the traffic shaping imposed by the ISPs themselves?

LLU and non-LLU?

The provider?

The overall backbone load?

There's probably other stuff aswell.

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Meh

Somehow I doubt this is is a UK exclusive phenomenon. Although I can't say that I've noticed it especially. Like AndrueC, I use Be and I get a pretty consistent level of service from them even in North London.

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Facepalm

Blank Blank Sherlock

Please don't tell me they actually spent a load of money carrying out this research. Pretty well all of UK ISP's throttle during peak times (AKA when people actually have time to surf). It's been a massive con for the ISP's for ages, as people think they will have constant DL speeds 24/7, but in actuality it's far from good.

I agree with @AndrueC. BE are without a doubt the best ISP in the UK, and I have been with 5 others in the past. They don't throttle at peak times.

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Be

Although my connection speed sucks (thanks to BT's decision to lay phone cables along the most scenic route); Be are a great ISP and definitely the one to be with if you can't afford Zen.

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Throttling

Your post borders on misinformation with the implication that your ISP deliberately limits the speed that you can receive when you're home because they're evil, manipulative people out to screw with you.

There is a distinction between throttling (and/or traffic shaping) and contention. All ADSL (including Be but they have tons of bandwidth so you won't notice) is sold as contended. Which is to say the ISP sells the same 24Mb of bandwidth to the exchange to 20 (or more) people on the generally safe expectation that you won't all use it constantly and passes the savings on to you - thus your ASDL service costs £10 per month and not the £300+ per month that a 1:1 contention service would set you back.

In the end, you get what you pay for. Tanstaafl.

Throttling tends to occur against specfic protocols/applications and is a deliberate limiting of your speed. And yes most ISPs will do this to things like P2P during peak hours so that there is more bandwidth to share for less intensive things like webbrowsing. But it's not a comprehensive "your speed sucks because you are throttled".

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Alert

Mirrored in the business domain

These worrying trends are unfortunately also hitting the business domain as bandwidth-hungry services such as video conferencing and streaming become more popular in offices up and down the land. A survey of some of our 80,000 customers pre-empted this earlier this year with almost a quarter or respondents (23.9%) saying that managing bandwidth utilisation was the biggest challenge for corporate network management in 2011. On top of the increase in bandwidth sapping business applications, general employee internet surfing around this time of year is also having an effect on bandwidth use.

Steve Demianyk, Channel Manager, Ipswitch Network Management Division

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Anonymous Coward

Businesses should not be on consumer tariffs

Tell them to stop being cheapskates and pay for the business service or leased line. Most consumer tariffs specifically state in the terms that they are not allowed to be used for business. If they are paying for a business service then they shouldn't be experiencing the slowdown you mention as they would surely have done a survey beforehand to see how much bandwidth they needed including allowing for bursts. If the survey did not show the expected needs correctly then the person who did it is at fault, don't blame the provider (unless of course you aren't getting the service you are paying for).

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Anonymous Coward

Be

Yes, I get a decent service from Be, too. However, here in Cheltenham this past month they've been upgrading the BT boxes. Obviously that will benefit me too, but lately speeds have gone from generally brisk to, at time, slow as treacle. For the first time since having first 8Mbps then 12Mbps (i.e. ~5Mbps then ~8Mbps) I have a service that sometimes seems like 56K dial-up - and it coincides with fibre-to-the-box. I await further developments.

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Anonymous Coward

BeThere? Never had a problem

I've also never had a problem with BeThere. I sync at 10Mbps, and I get 9.2Mbps after overheads. I can hit this 24/7 no problem and have been able to do so ever since I got it 14 months ago. Sure I pay a premium but that's what I expect to be able to get when I pay extra to have it. I maxed it out for 2 weeks solid and never saw a single slow down. That's how it should be.

Too many people bash Be, when in fact it's their line that's normally the issue not Be.

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'it really is surprising'

err, no it isn't. It isn't surprising at all in any way shape or form..

Frankly it's surprising it isn't a bigger drop off... Perhaps if ofcom stopped this idiotic chasing of 'advertising' max rates and concentrated on contention ratio's there might be a change.

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Lies damn lies & statistics

Hold on a second, is it all contention? I'm on the same physical line I was on when I was with Tiscali a couple of years back. When I changed over to O2 (yeah, Be) my speed went through the roof, in a GOOD way.

I would say there's an awful lot of traffic shaping getting in the way of these figures, rather than good old honest contention for bandwidth. Traffic shaping gets switched on and off at fixed times, it's nothing to do with actual real demand.

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It may still be contention. The same physical line connecting your residence to the street doesnt mean you arent going through different equipment at the exchange (which you probably are and even if you arent, your new provider may be paying for x guaranteed bandwidth with a lower user ratio), which is where the contention / congestion typically starts to take place.

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er, hang on a mo, too

"Hold on a second, is it all contention? I'm on the same physical line I was on when I was with Tiscali a couple of years back. When I changed over to O2 (yeah, Be) my speed went through the roof, in a GOOD way."

You left Tiscali and your speed increased?

Clearly another report is needed to investigate this bear/woods phenomenon.

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FAIL

Idiots

..conflating the speed of teh interwebz with "Broadband speed".

Broadband is just the final link, it'll be the same all the time for a particular endpoint.

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FAIL

Usual BT bull

"It is not at all surprising that the actual speeds broadband users experience differ and vary throughout the day as demand for the internet decreases and increases," a BT spokesman told The Register.

I recall a recent advert for BT Broadband that specifically highlighted how the BT customer wasn't affected by the peak-time slow down, unlike the hapless estate agent using another ISP. Are they admitting this advert was misleading? And it's funny how actual speeds vary but the price BT charge does not.

"This is especially true during the busiest time, 7pm to 9pm, when global internet speeds are at their slowest simply because of the amount of people using the internet.

Has the whole world suddenly adopted GMT and the British working day? I want to see stats to back up this claim.

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Anonymous Coward

And in other news

Average speeds of cars is lower in rush hour.

The queues at Kebab shops are longer at kicking out time.

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FAIL

Fessing up to backhaul/transit contention ratios ...

Would go a long way to qualifying the service offered by BT. 5:1, 20:1 or 1000:1? Just how over-subscribed is the BT backhaul and transit throughput during peak traffic periods?

Like BT will *ever* talk about that! We can only therefore assume, it does not paint a positive picture for them, and therefore it is bad.

It *will* be over subscribed, or it wouldn't be financially viable. It is HOW oversubscribed it is in comparison to the other ISPs that makes it interesting.

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Holmes

There are two BTs

There is a world of difference between BT Wholesale and BT Retail. If you are on an exchange which has not been unbundled (as I am), it doesn't make any difference which ISP you use, they all use the same wires and basic service - that provided by BT Wholesale.

The contention is no longer on the wires. Providers will make their own decisions about how much they will pay for the pipe from the BT Core network to their network where you get your internet service. BT will sell the ISP a pipe which connects all the ISPs ADSL customers to their own network. The ISP will decide how many users this pipe can support, and this will be the basis of their contention.

Good ISPs (I'm with Zen) will have plenty of provisioned bandwidth. Cheaper ISPs will try to cram more users onto this central pipe. If they all want to use it at once, there is contention. I don't see slowdowns at any time, but then Zen is largely a business ISP, so will have different usage profiles to the likes of TalkTalk...

As so many have commented, you get what you pay for. How much broadband do you think you will get for <£10/month?

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You get what you pay for

Want a connection at 25p a month? Cope with it being a bit crap. Want decent internet? Pay for it. Not hard...

USwitch contribute directly to this by implying price is the only factor in choosing an ISP, which favours those that massively oversell and have this problem... so lots of people think it's 'normal' for the internet to slow down when actually it's a fault.

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Anonymous Coward

In other news....

Water Companies notice a surge on fresh water between the hours of 06:00 and 08:00 and waste water between 17:00 and 19:00

Gas companies report more Gas used between 06:00 and 09:00 in Scotland...during the winter....

Electricity companies need more power at half time during Football matches (to power the light in the fridge as more beer is retrieved... not for the kettle of course.)

and finally... El Reg readers notice that The Register allow uSwitch to shamelessly plug their services via "surveys".

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Clearly untrue

There's no crippling of connection speeds where I live - my broadband speed is pitiful round the clock.

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Stop

Services.

I dunno, I kinda think that broadband is as much a utility service as gas/electricity these days.

Can you imagine if those providers 'throttled' your power?

'As per out Special Budget Tariff, you may only have a maximum of 500w on at any one time between the hours of 6pm-12am.'

I can understand the whole contention thing, but tbh, I don't think that's QUITE as much of a problem as it used to be, what with LLU and suchlike.

At the end of the day, there is something wrong if there HAS to be a slowdown in speeds across the UK every night. Cars are big metal things that exist in the real world. Data is just that - data. It isn't physical (well ok, I suppose the atoms that make up the data stream is real, but you know what I mean...), and as far as I can see, the only reason we HAVE slowdowns is mainly due to BTw charging a ridiculous amount per Tb.

I am simplifying it, of course. But I just wish we could somehow move this whole broadband thing up a gear. It's frustrating to think there is so much potential use of the internet that we in the UK simply cannot use because of a piss-poor implementation of the telephone network.

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Utility Service...

I get where you are going with this, but in reality IS it a utility service? I know, I know, before all of those who work from home or run home businesses flame me, you couldn't work without it, but then surely its just another service?

Think of this - utility service = gas, electricity, water, so the services we need to live (food, warmth, hygeine).

Internet = additional or value added services, so something you need to trade, watch, enjoy, or fap...not necessarily in that order.

Like other users above I pay for an uncontended, guaranteed connection rather than mixing it up with Virgin, O2 or BT customers and sharing my bandwidth. I've paid for a chauffeur on the information superhighway, but don't cry when those of you on the rush hour train feel overcrowded!

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Re: Services.

"Can you imagine if those providers 'throttled' your power?"

I am sure that they would do that in a shot if they could and it will probably be possible with Smart Meters.

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WTF?

Oh God, don't give them ideas :|

And FFS WHY did 2 wonderful people downvote my post? Did the idea of sharing your bandwidth offend you in some way?!

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Throttling power

If one could get 10% of the electricity bill by agreeing allow interruption of the tumble drier or dishwasher cycle at peak times it might be quite an attractive option.

Same logic applies to ISPs, but the effect is less noticeable

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Global single time-zone in testing at BT

"This is especially true during the busiest time, 7pm to 9pm, when global internet speeds are at their slowest simply because of the amount of people using the internet.

Wow! How did BT pull that one off? To get the whole globe signed up to a single time zone must have been quite a feat!

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Anonymous Coward

Wadebridge

Getting superfast broadband "d'reclky," then?

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Anonymous Coward

@skuba*steve:

If I remember correctly, one of the tour guides at Woodchester mansion mentioned (while on tour) some kind of law from the Victorian period stating that every room *must* have a source of heat. (Or fireplace... one or the other.)

And water is essential for human life.

If both of these got throttled, you could probably flag it up as a human rights violation.

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WTF?

BE/o2

I've been with o2 for almost 3 years and up until the beginning of last month they were blisteringly fast, however like someone else said at times its been running like treacle, the other night I was getting 10KB/sec, big difference to the usual 1.53MB/sec I usually get. Needless to say I requested my MAC, but according to status.bethere.com the speed issue is fixed. Lets see.

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'pitiful 2.1Mbit/s'

Some of us dream of a connection over 2Mbit/s.

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