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Telstra tests P2P throttling, deep packet inspection

Australia's largest telecommunications network is testing methods to curb peer-to-peer traffic on its network.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

Telstra will trial deep packet inspection and slow down peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic over its network for a select number of ADSL customers in Victoria, the telco has confirmed today.

Telstra has long been trialling methods of throttling download speeds, and was considering using it to curb bill shock for mobile customers who exceed their monthly data limits. Although close to two years since first announcing that plan, the telco still has not announced when it will be available to customers.

However, today in a blog post Telstra's director of consumer wireline, John Chambers, admitted that the company is looking at other "network enhancements", including identifying traffic that could have its speed reduced.

"Telstra is trialling network enhancements that allow the identification of specific types of traffic on our network," Chambers said. "The technology being used looks at characteristics of the data packet to identify the type of the traffic present. Any inspection that takes place is used only to identify the signature of the traffic; it does not identify the content."

While Telstra admitted that peer-to-peer traffic — which is commonly used for the transfer of copyright-infringing files such as TV shows, music, or films — would be targeted, Chambers painted the trial as "maximising the customer experience", and said that the limited trial would be on an opt-in basis.

"Telstra will consider the results of this trial as part of its future network planning and product development activities," he said. "No decisions have been made to extend any of the network management practices being tested in this trial to our broader customer base."

The telco giant claimed that peer-to-peer traffic throttling is just one sort of traffic that Telstra will examine.

"One of the variety of options being examined under this trial is the shaping of specific services (including some peer-to-peer services) in certain circumstances, to determine what impact this has on total overall customer experience of time-critical experiences for real-time entertainment," Chambers said.

Chambers said the trial is common practice internationally, and is already in effect with a number of Australian internet service providers (ISPs). ZDNet has asked Optus and Vodafone whether they employ data throttling on their respective networks, but the companies had not responded at the time of writing.

Telstra has been a strong advocate for copyright enforcement in the past. Telstra, along with Optus, is understood to be willing to participate in a trial scheme developed with the copyright lobby and the Attorney-General's Department, aimed at curbing copyright infringement through warning notices that it would send out to customers who are suspected of sharing infringing material online. iiNet has said it will not participate in such a scheme unless forced to by the government.

Following the revelation last year that information about the websites visited by Telstra Next G customers was being sent to an internet filtering company based in the United States as part of a planned internet filtering trial, the company has taken a more cautious approach in conducting this trial, and said that it does not monitor or track sites visited by customers.

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