NBN Co proposes app bandwidth limits when its wireless network is busy

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NBN Co proposes app bandwidth limits when its wireless network is busy

Says 'heavy users' are routinely in breach of fair use.

NBN Co is shopping a proposal to limit the bandwidth consumption of certain applications - including P2P, software and game patches and releases, VPN traffic and ultra-high definition video - in busy times on its fixed wireless network.

The company unveiled the proposal today in its product development forum (PDF), where it workshops changes with retail service providers.

Technical changes to the fixed wireless network mean that it is now a ‘best effort’ service, capable of up to 75Mbps downlink speeds, with uplink speeds pushing 20Mbps for some users.

With that, the usage profile of the network has changed, to the point where a small subset of ‘heavy’ users are routinely in breach of the fixed wireless fair use policy, by a significant amount.

“We have observed a number of examples of single users consuming the majority of capacity resources in their given cell through consistent and prolonged high usage,” NBN Co said.

In August this year, NBN Co said 2.24 percent of users - some 7185 - “consumed 12.3 percent of total downlink capacity resources.”

Additionally, 1.65 percent or 5375 users “accounted for use of 18.5 percent of total uplink capacity.”

NBN Co said it had “no current mechanism” at its disposal to address the issue now, “other than balancing the number of users within each cell”.

It is currently doing this load balancing completely manually, reallocating heavy users that cause problems to neighbouring cells.

“Experiments where we moved a heavy user to a neighbouring cell (as NBN Co may do from time to time under a manual load balancing initiative) indicate that the remaining users in the original cell typically observe a material improvement in their service performance as a result,” the company said.

“However, manual load balancing does not represent a long-term solution to this problem, because it does not solve the long-term issues caused by unfair usage in a shared network resource environment over time.”

The company is instead proposing to introduce a new management framework that would give it more power to enforce the fair use policy for fixed wireless.

It would target heavy users - defined as those breaching 400GB download or 120GB upload thresholds in a calendar month - and, in particular, the applications they are using.

These applications would be hit with a “service reduction”, where NBN Co would “limit the throughput” made available to them.

NBN Co outlined several target traffic types, including:

  • Peer-to-peer (P2P0 file sharing applications, such as BitTorrent. iTnews understands this is considered the worst offender.
  • High-resolution, constant stream CCTV or other similar real-time video upload applications
  • Server and database backup applications running at high bandwidth
  • Gaming patch and release upgrade distributions
  • Large software downloads, such as operating system updates
  • VPN traffic, which could otherwise conceal any of these workloads
  • Ultra-High Definition (UHD) video streaming, “which may otherwise be moderated to HD or SD quality”.

NBN Co provided an indication of “examples as to what it considers as reasonable service reductions whilst still maintaining some usability.”

That is, the company will not block traffic types but will instead temporarily reduce the amount of bandwidth they can consume.

The company plans leave certain types of traffic alone, mostly the types of traffic it unmeters on its Sky Muster Plus satellite service like education and health, email and online banking.

NBN Co is hoping to have the management framework in place by Q3 2021.

It will invite comments from RSPs through to December 3.

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