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Last updated: 31 March 2021
Broadband traffic management is practised by many broadband providers, but it’s not always clear what it actually is. Unfortunately, for users broadband traffic management is as significant as it is opaque, since it affects what kind of download speeds you will receive.
What is broadband traffic management?
Broadband traffic management is a technique used by broadband providers whereby your download or upload speed is adjusted at certain times in order to ensure all customers can enjoy a stable connection.
Often at peak times a large number of customers may be using the internet at the same time which places strain on the capacity of the connection resulting in slower speeds for those accessing the service. This can also be made worse when some users are downloading large files or streaming a large amount of content.
In order to prevent a poor service being experienced by a majority of customers, some service providers impose traffic mangement policies and data limits
on some users to ensure a strong connection is maintained overall. In the past when broadband connections had less capacity, traffic management was an essential practice however, as the technology has improved it has become less common. Most providers now offer truly unlimited broadband
How does broadband traffic management work?
In order to manage internet traffic your provider will monitor what kind of data is being transferred via your broadband connection and then decide whether this activity should be prioritised or delayed.
Activities which require a stable connection such as video calls, video streaming or online gaming are more likely to be prioritised. Those activities which are more likely to be slowed down include software updates, file-sharing or anything using ‘peer-to-peer’ services. These activities can normally operate without high speed internet.
The speed you can expect is largely dependent on how many people in your area are accessing the internet and what they’re using it for. Traffic management is usually deployed during peak times such as evenings and weekends when more people than usual are accessing the internet.
What are the advantages and disadvantages to broadband traffic management?
Traffic management means users can continue to expect stable speeds even during peak times when a high quantity of users are accessing the service. This can be particularly useful when you’re using your broadband service for online gaming, streaming or video calls. However, the main disadvantage is for users who regularly download large files in periods of peak usage as these activities are likely to be slowed down.
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Which broadband providers will manage my traffic?
When you compare broadband, you will be able to find your providers approach to traffic management on your website or in your contract. Providers are required to explain to you how their traffic management policies may come to affect your service. Below are some examples of how different providers may manage your traffic.
The Post Office
uses a traffic management policy which restricts file sharing between 4pm and 12am, users will also experience reduced download speeds if they use over 100GB worth of data in a month. The Post Office should pre-warn you if this is about to happen.
uses traffic management techniques for its ‘off-net’ services during peak times. These are between 4.30pm and 1am on weekdays and between 1.30pm and 1am on weekends. During these times users should expect heavy-data activities such as streaming, downloading big files or peer-to-peer downloading to be slower during this period.
operates a standard traffic management policy of prioritising some activities and delaying others. Users who are updating their software, making video calls or using VPNs can expect their activity to be prioritised whereas those downloading big files or doing peer-to-peer downloads will be stalled.
Wireless and Satellite Providers
It is also worth noting that nearly all wireless and satellite providers use traffic management techniques and users signing up to these services should be aware of this.
Now you understand what traffic management is, compare broadband deals
and traffic management policies and find the best one suited to your internet needs.