Broadband provider Plusnet has started offering customers guaranteed jitter-free performance for applications such as videoconferencing and online gaming, for a monthly fee.
The Plusnet Pro bolt-on, launched on Thursday, costs £5 a month and is being promoted as ideal for home workers and gamers. According to the BT-owned ISP, "this product development is unique to Plusnet and underlines the importance the ISP has always given to traffic management".
Home workers using a company's virtual private network (VPN) can benefit from videoconferencing with such services gaining precedence over the network.– Plusnet
"This is beneficial to those who game in real-time, utilise services such as Team Speak and interact with other players online using a fast broadband connection," the company said in a statement. "Home workers using a company's virtual private network (VPN) can benefit from videoconferencing with such services gaining precedence over the network."
Latency in this case refers to the time it takes for a user's computer to communicate with a remote server. It is not a major issue for emails and other such non time-sensitive applications, but it has a big impact on real-time communications.
In its statement, Plusnet chief executive Jamie Ford compared the Pro bolt-on to "paying a little extra to do a fast check-in at the airport". He said it would appeal to those who cannot get fibre broadband, which already offers lower latency than that available to ADSL users.
A Plusnet spokeswoman told ZDNet UK on Friday that the ISP's standard service already prioritises many web applications such as VoIP and video streaming that require low latency, naming iPlayer as an example.
However, the standard Plusnet Value and Plusnet Extra packages do not include prioritisation for videoconferencing and gaming, which is where the bolt-on comes in. According to the spokeswoman, Pro guarantees low jitter-free usage 24 hours a day.
Asked whether prioritising services for a fee would negatively affect the internet experience of others who do not subscribe to the bolt-on, Plusnet's spokeswoman insisted that Pro is "not detracting from any of the other services we provide".
Plusnet said it is following the Broadband Stakeholder Group's (BSG) recent call-to-action for ISPs to be honest about their traffic management policies; the company published a 'key facts indicator' in April. The transparency outlined in BSG's code of conduct is a major plank of the UK's soft regulatory approach to net neutrality, which is also being maintained in Europe — for now.
The European Commission said in April that it was examining ISPs' traffic management policies, to see whether transparency is in place and specific services are not being deprioritised to a point where a basic quality of service is not on offer.
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