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Author Topic: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds  (Read 366 times)

Bowdon

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https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2019/01/isp-bt-trials-new-way-of-checking-customer-broadband-line-speeds.html

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Consumer UK ISP BT has begun to trial a new way of checking customer broadband speeds, which sounds like it will require special code (firmware) to be added on to the end-users router (Smart Hub etc.) in order to test and monitor their line. This could help them to comply with Ofcom’s forthcoming changes.

Last year the telecoms regulator, Ofcom, announced a new Voluntary Code of Practice for Broadband Speeds (CoP), which among other things would provide UK consumers with more information about their estimated line performance and make it easier to exit your contract if related problems cannot be resolved within 30 days.

Crucially this CoP, which is due to be introduced from 1st March 2019, added a requirement for ISPs to deliver normally available speed estimates based on peak time speeds. Effectively this meant that member ISPs might have to test the actual speeds of a statistically meaningful panel of customers on each broadband package during peak time, which at the time was neither cheap nor easy to do.

Ordinary web-based speedtests are simply not up to the task because they are too unreliable and easily influenced by issues such as local network congestion, limitations of end-user devices and slow WiFi etc. The alternative of using lots of custom routers from SamKnows (Ofcom and Virgin Media use this for their speed reports) has also been rejected by other ISPs as being too expensive or tedious to implement.

Alternatively ISPs have also been exploring different methods, such as the possibility of extracting more performance data from wholesale suppliers (there are some big limitations to what can be done here) or building special connection monitoring code into the end-user’s router (e.g. ASSIA’s TruSpeed). The latter would be difficult to develop if starting from scratch.
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ejs

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2019, 07:06:02 PM »

I wouldn't have thought it would be particularly difficult to develop some code within a firmware to do that. Not for a firmware developer at least.
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kitz

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2019, 11:45:00 PM »

Someone kindly gave a link to the OFCOM file which gives more information about the tests

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0025/111697/annex-5-testing-principles.pdf

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Weaver

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2019, 01:52:34 AM »

That document - stupid using TCP, as then the results are affected by the vagaries of different TCP implementations. Software design vs network conditions has nothing to do with fair assessment of link capacity or network congestion. They should be using a simple UDP-based test application with a fixed protocol which is designed specifically for highly accurate speed testing and which carefully maxes the link out in one, then the other then both directions. Perhaps something like iperf.
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CarlT

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2019, 11:01:59 AM »

TCP is most representative of user experience. The point is to reflect Quality of Experience.
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CarlT

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2019, 11:27:18 AM »

Should also mention that I immediately thought of a way to ensure test results from anything UDP-based flatter my network without any QoS I would have to put in my Key Facts Indicator: adjust queue length / buffer size to a value that's as small as feasible. Under congestion this would mean higher loss which would throttle TCP sessions but UDP would barely notice.

UDP testing in the presence of 5% packet loss will deliver 95% of peak speeds. TCP will be like wading through molasses.

EDIT: Also trying to test both directions simultaneously is a bad idea on everything bar DSL and point to point fibre.
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Weaver

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2019, 01:12:53 PM »

You are of course quite right about the ‘representative of user experience’ thing. But then you would be measuring the performance of a pair of tcp stacks of random type, and which one and also making assumptions about applications. You would not be measuring the link alone but a complex combination of: link + software components + app + use-case scenario. And to me that would be arbitrary and, while important and interesting, it would not be measuring the link +/- isp alone which was, I thought, the requirement.
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CarlT

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Re: ISP BT Trials New Way of Checking Customer Broadband Line Speeds
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2019, 02:40:35 PM »

It's measuring performance from the router to the test server end to end which is intentional.

Measuring the access layer link performance is easy, it's already done by the kit either side, and meaningless to customer experience. It sets an upper bound only.

The TCP stacks aren't random. One side is controlled by whomever is administrating the tests, the other by the provider of the CPE, so it's a known environment.

The point of having the software running on the router is to remove the end user's local network, including software, from the equation. More reliable than having the end user send in speed tests carried out on their own machines.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2019, 02:43:20 PM by CarlT »
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