No One Support

Broadband - Not all networks are created equal

Continuing on from "Broadband - What Am I buying". This short post focuses on the things that can cause issues with your broadband, latency, bandwidth and "backhaul." (backhaul is the process of getting your data from your local exchange to your ISP's core network).

Poor broadband performance can be measured in two ways:

Latency – This is the time it takes for data to go from your computer to its destination and back again. It has to be based on this round trip as most data is caused by your computer making a request and the device at the other end sending a response. For example, your computer asking for the BBC News web page and the BBC’s server sending that data.

Bandwidth – This is the available capacity for that data to pass. Think of this as a road. The bigger the road the faster you can drive. Motorways are quicker than narrow country lanes – if the motorway is empty!

That nicely brings me to…

Contention – This is when you share the available bandwidth with other people. This is quite normal. Everything in life is contended. The machines at the gym, shopping trolleys, motorways… This all works fine until there is a higher demand than there is available capacity (Or machines, trolleys). If every member went to the gym at the same time you would have to wait your turn before the bike or rowing machine became available to use. This would mean that your normal workout might take 15 minutes longer than normal. In broadband terms, if there is not enough capacity for everyone at peak times, your computer, phone, TV etc must wait it’s turn so everything is slower and takes more time.

In the main, backhaul networks are remarkably similar. There are different providers who take different physical routes between your local exchange and the ISP core but in terms of capacity, none of No One's backhaul providers are running their backhaul networks over capacity so there is no packet loss or added latency caused at this layer. On this basis, let us assume this is the case in general. Backhaul would be straight forward if each exchange was directly connected to the ISP core, however, each exchange is not connected directly to the ISP core. Each exchange is linked to several others before these aggregated exchanges are linked to the ISP core and it is here that the capacity can become a problem. This can be by design or accident.

Accidental capacity issues can happen if a backhaul link should fail or other key hardware component in the backhaul. In theory there should be more than one link and no link should be running at over 1/number of links in use so if there are 2 links neither link should run at more than ½ of its capacity.

Capacity by design is where a set capacity has been designed for a specific number of subscribers. This is usually based on cost and the desire to hit a specific price point for a connection. For example if the cost of backhaul is £40 for 10Mb/s of bandwidth and the ISP wants to sell its 2Mb/s connections for £2 each they need to sell 20 connections totalling 40Mb/s of potential bandwidth to break even. This would be a contention of 4:1. However, if they upgrade those users to 6Mb/s connections for the same price this would become 12:1. Capacity by design works fine all the time the bandwidth demand remains stable and predictable however if something changes, for example through COVID-19 lock down or through the creation of a new service such as when Netflix launched.

No One does not manage its capacity based on contention and we pledge that our network to not ever be the cause of any bottle neck. We also manage the backhaul interconnects ourselves on the links that run between our wholesale carriers’ network and our core so we can always ensure we have excess capacity available and that we can handle a link failure without detriment to our broadband customers. This is one of the major reasons we do not expect to see drops in performance at peak times.


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