Virgin Media to boost upload speeds, throttle P2P traffic

The internet provider has said it will upgrade its network to maximise upload speeds, and introduce a new traffic management system at peak times to throttle peer-to-peer and Usenet activity
Written by Jack Clark, Contributor

Virgin Media announced on Thursday that it will be rolling out a new traffic management system to restrict peer-to-peer and Usenet activity during peak times, as part of an upgrade to cable customers' maximum upload speeds.

The new policy will be activated in tandem with the upload speed boost. A Virgin Media spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Thursday that a major chunk of customers will be upgraded over the next few months through to the first quarter of 2011, with plans for a "long tail" upgrade cycle from the second quarter of 2011. The plan is for the upgrade to eventually cover Virgin's entire network of 12.6 million home users, of whom 4.2 million are cable customers.

The new traffic management policy dictates that, at peak times, only 25 percent of network resources will be dedicated to what Virgin calls 'non-time-sensitive traffic', which it classifies as peer-to-peer (P2P) and Usenet traffic. This type of throttling brings Virgin Media's high-speed broadband network in line with those of rivals such as BT and TalkTalk. Those companies also limit speeds for such traffic during the busy evening period.

"It's not an attack at all on peer-to-peer or file-sharing; if anything it's the opposite... it's a progressive measure to ensure best service," a Virgin Media spokesman told ZDNet UK on Thursday. "Typically we expect that, from a headline speed number, customers will still be able to use peer-to-peer and Usenet traffic at anything up to half their headline speed [during peak-time throttling]."

Nor is it related to any kind of clampdown on illegal file-sharing or piracy, the spokesman said. "From our protocol you can't tell the traffic's legitimacy — it doesn't even come into the question," he said.

In tandem with the introduction of the new traffic management policy, customers of Virgin Media's 10Mbps download 'M' and 'L' broadband packages should see their upload speed limits increase from 512kbps to 1Mbps. Virgin's 20Mbps 'XL' package will see upload speeds increase from 768Kbps to 2Mbps, while the upload speed of the 50Mbps 'XXL' package will rise from 1.5Mbps to 5Mbps.

The upload speed increases have already been rolled out to Enfield, Huddersfield, Sutton Coldfield and Warwick, with further areas to follow. They will most tangibly affect customers using "social networks, video sharing and whatnot", the spokesman said.

"Upstream is about sharing; more of our customers are starting to share more through social networks and the use of video-conferencing. They'll notice those uploads going quicker and [broadband] speed tests will indicate that too," he added.

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