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Broadband Internet traffic management strategies help to improve the end user experience

With 46 million of us in the UK alone accessing and using broadband for data-heavy activities such as watching video and catch-up TV, the Internet is becoming an increasingly busy and congested place.

broadband internet congestion

In recent months the Internet has become a victim of its own success. In response to this, Ofcom recently published a new guide to help consumers understand why and how the Internet is actively managed during busy peak periods. Unfortunately the Internet isn’t an infinite resource, and is in fact a series of interlinking networks of hugely varying capacities and capabilities. Its not possible to just make every part of the Internet faster and faster to cope with increasing demand.

Comparing the Internet to a series of motorways, Ofcom describes how, just as a motorway might become heavily congested during peak times, the same happens with the Internet. In the early days of the web, far fewer people were using it and even then, it was primarily used for emailing and browsing. As the Internet continued to grow in popularity and more services became available however, the old dial-up phone connection struggled to cope with demand and things became congested and slow.

Broadband was the answer to this dilemma as it provided the Internet with more, wider motorway lanes to speed up the traffic. As well as making browsing much quicker, broadband also opened up a whole new world as people could now stream films, download music, play games and even make video calls.

Again though, these activities required a lot of bandwidth and more people started participating so the Internet became congested once again. In order to deal with this, Internet Service Providers had to come up with a new way to keep the Internet running without slowing everything down.

Think of the Internet as a busy motorway – its has its own ‘rush-hours’

Although ISP’s continue to build bigger, faster motorways, often the network of minor Internet ‘roads’ can’t always be expanded or widened. Therefore in response to steadily increasing demand, broadband ISPs have to try and manage their ‘motorways’ and the ‘A roads’ by introducing priority lanes for certain types of Internet traffic.

The ebb and flow of our daily lives means that busiest time on the Internet is between 4.00 in the afternoon, and 11.00 at night. When children are on school holidays, the busy time can start as early as 11.00 o’clock in the morning

Internet traffic can be thought of as being represented by different types of vehicles. Activities such as streaming videos are the lorries that take up a lot of space and emailing or browsing are smart cars, which are much smaller and take up less space.

This analogy has been adopted for Internet management strategies because the Internet is managed similarly to how the roads might be. For example, a bus lane gives priority to buses – therefore making their journey times shorter. While this is great for the buses, this can mean slightly longer journey times for other vehicles sharing the remaining lanes.

An individual Internet Service Provider may decide to prioritise audio and visual services during peak times by putting them in the ‘bus lane’. This should allow users to stream content without disruption. In order to do this, they may have to slow down another type of traffic – such as file sharing, emailing or logging into social media websites.

Ofcom’s research also revealed that among the general public, there is a distinct lack of awareness when it comes to traffic management. Only 1 in 10 users are familiar with the concept and just a tiny 1% have claimed to have considered this when choosing their broadband provider. Every Internet Service Provider has their own traffic management policy so when making a decision, it’s important to check that their policy suits your needs.

Here you can read the Ofcom guide on internet management policies.

If you want to understand more about how we manage internet usage on satellite broadband, here for example is the SES Fair Access Policy.


Astra 2E blasts off – 6 weeks to go until UK Freeview disappears in Spain

Astra 2E blasts off

Published on October 4th, 2013

The SES Astra 2E satellite was finally launched last Sunday from Baikonur in Kazakhstan. ASTRA 2E will be deployed at 28.2 degrees east.

The satellite was originally scheduled to be launched on the 21st July. The launch was delayed after a Proton rocket carrying another load crashed following the incorrect installation of three yaw angular rate sensors located on the launch vehicle.

Astra-2E carries Ku- and Ka-band payloads for the delivery of high-performance Direct-to-Home (DTH) and next generation broadband services in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

The satellite will take 4-6 weeks to commission before coming on line. Once it is fully operational SES broadband will be available across Scotland and large parts of Eastern Europe as shown in the coverage map below. SES satellite broadband will be available as an alternative to Tooway in these areas. The increase in capacity across most of England should reduce the possibility of those areas experiencing the congestion they have recently been experiencing with Tooway.

In addition to providing capacity to UK broadcasters, SES-owned Astra 2E will also carry additional data and TV services for parts of Europe and the Middle East. It will be equipped with a similar UK spotbeam to the one used by Astra 2F, which led to numerous viewers in continental Europe losing access to some UK free-to-air channels, including Channel 5.


What is already clear from the characteristics of the current Astra 2F satellite is that the narrow beam is much tighter than the one previously carried by the Astra 2D satellite (now defunct) and even more so than its temporary replacement the Astra 1N satellite. Many expats in various parts of Europe who have been enjoying the BBC and ITV channels for the last few years are now finding they’ve lost them or are about to.

Typically the testing and subsequent move to its operational location can take around 6 weeks, after which we can expect the BBC and other main channels to be transferred.

So basically, expats in southern Europe have at best another 6 or 7 weeks to watch the main entertainment channels before their screens go blank. Viewers in the UK on the other hand, especially in Scotland, will get a much stronger signal and may be able to use a smaller dish than has been needed until now for TV reception.

It is important to note that satellite broadband doesn’t easily replace these services. The highest data capacity Tooway service available in Europe is the XXL package which has a 50GB monthly data allowance. Watching an hour of standard definition TV on BBC i-player uses about 800MB. So the XXL package (RRP €74.90) would allow users to watch about 2 hours of standard definition TV per day – as long as they did nothing else with their internet. Obviously users can buy Volume Boosters (1, 10 50, 100 GB) to cover any extra usage or to give them more viewing time.

As always, satellite broadband is an excellent solution to user’s internet access problems if sold in the correct way and if the user is informed of issues such as these.

Posted by The EuropaSat Reseller Team


Tooway Max – UPDATE

I contacted the UK tooway distributor to clarify the details regarding the Tooway MAX (unlimited data) package being terminated.

Please find below the response.

Yes the customers who sign up to the Max tariff prior to 30th Sept in Spain will be on ‘unlimited’ for the duration of their use of the service.

Of course, they need to be clear that they are still subject to Eutelsat’s Fair Access Policy just like everyone else, which means they may be throttled back if their usage is deemed ‘heavy’ (just like with any other internet service). This may lead to a situation where they are unable to receive speeds at certain times which would allow them to stream or download successfully, depending on the traffic on the network at that moment and the way Eutelsat manage it in order to ensure a fair apportioning of bandwidth to all users.

In plain English what this means is that the product shouldn’t be sold as a like for like substitute for satellite TV, as and when the latter become unobtainable in Spain. It’s fine for ad hoc catchup TV and iPlayer etc + standard browsing and email, but watching significant amounts of TV via broadband will inevitably rack up a lot of data and put them at risk of being throttled.

I hope that helps.

Those customers who are already on the tooway service with me need only let me know if they would like their package changed to “Tooway MAX”.

A package change request will be submitted and the new package should take effect with 48hrs.


Tooway Max (a.k.a. ‘Absolute’) service to be terminated.

As you may already be aware, Eutelsat have announced that from the 31st of this month (August 2013), the Tooway Max tariff will no longer be available for sale in the UK and Ireland. It will also be removed from sale in the rest of Europe from 30th September. It will be replaced by the ‘Tooway XXL’ which has the same costs but is capped at 50GB/month.
Existing Max tariff customers will continue to receive the unlimited service.


I will try to get some more information from tooway and will update you on the situation soon.


Facebook Bug Exposes Six Million Contacts

Facebook says it is “embarrassed” after a system bug accidentally gives out contact information for millions of its users.

Six million Facebook users have had their contact information inadvertently exposed because of a bug in the site.

The social media giant admitted that each piece of information – such as an email address or phone number – had been given out “once or twice” and said it was “upset and embarrassed” by the mistake.

Facebook said the bug was connected to a technical mix-up between its Download Your Information (DYI) tool, which lets users get an archive of their timeline activity, and the feature which recommends who to add as a friend.

People using the tool were also unexpectedly getting extra contact information for friends of friends, or extra contact information for their existing Facebook friends.

The site tried to reassure users in a blog post and said there was no evidence yet that the bug had been maliciously exploited.

“For almost all of the email addresses or telephone numbers impacted, each individual email address or telephone number was only included in a download once or twice,” said the blog.

“This means, in almost all cases, an email address or telephone number was only exposed to one person.

“Additionally, no other types of personal or financial information were included and only people on Facebook – not developers or advertisers – have access to the DYI tool.”

The problem has now been fixed but the company said it had already notified privacy regulators in the US, Canada and Europe, and was in the process of notifying affected users.


Instagram Reveals 15-Second Video Feature

The popular photo app is to let its users share bite-sized videos and add filters and effects, says its owner Facebook.

Instagram has branched out from photographs and is now letting people record and share short videos.

The photo-sharing app limits the duration to 15 seconds, and users can add effects similar to those already available for still pictures, such as improving contrast or changing colours.

“This is the same Instagram we all know and love but it moves,” said Instagram’s co-founder Kevin Systrom speaking at Facebook’s California HQ.

The move follows the growth of video-sharing Vine. Launched in January it has already notched up 13 million users who can share bite-sized  six-second clips.

The extra length of Instagram’s videos appears to be a move to trump its rival and offer users more room to be creative.

Instagram’s user base has grown massively since Facebook bought the service more than a year ago, growing from 22 million to more than 130 million.

Fans who have downloaded the latest version – available now on iOS and Android – will see a video camera icon and can record footage as long as they hold down the record button.

Mr Systrom said 13 filters are available and iPhone users also have a stabilisation feature to try to improve shaky phone clips.

Social networking giant Facebook bought Instagram, which specialises in adding “vintage” photo effects, for $715m (£461m) in August 2012.

It still has not said how it will be able to make money from Instagram, as it has not introduced ads on the service.

Video-sharing rival Vine is also set to reveal updates to its own service in the coming days.