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AAISP and BT Lock Horns Over 3 Percent FTTC Broadband Packet Loss

Friday, February 7th, 2014 (7:48 pm) - Score 2,453
angry-uk-internet-user

The boss of popular broadband ISP Andrews & Arnold (AAISP), Adrian Kennard, has angrily reported how a BTWholesale services Team Manager told him that “3% packet loss is not considered as a fault” on the operators hybrid fibre superfast broadband (FTTC) lines.

Packet Loss is the term given to a problem that occurs when some of the data packets being transmitted between two or more points (e.g. servers) on the internet effectively go missing or are incorrect. The connection usually auto-corrects for this but doing so can result in an additional delay (e.g. increased latency / high ping times) and, at its worse, data corruption or unusably slow TCP connections etc.

Generally speaking most connections tend to work with only the most minimal levels of Packet Loss and you’re unlikely to notice it. But it can become a more significant problem when faulty hardware, network congestion or other line problems make a connection prone to the issue at persistently higher levels.

Adrian Kennard said:

Do not be fooled, we are not talking about a line working at 97% of its speed, this is packet loss. Whilst IP does not guarantee no loss, any loss on an idle line is an indication of some sort of fault. The occasional packet once in a while is not usually an issue, but levels like 3% are serious.

In the case of this specific customer, the loss is averaging nearer 1% and even that causes him problems. BT have sent four engineers, after suggesting that a lift and shift (move to a new port on DSLAM) will solve the issue, and each time the engineer has refused to do the lift and shift but also refused to actually fix the fault by any other means and just left.”

Admittedly Packet Loss is somewhat a fact of life on the Internet and at some point everybody will experience it. Similarly such issues can just as easily be seen when connecting to remote servers, although in this case the problem does appear to be linked back to the customers own FTTC connection.

Indeed Kennard is keen to stress that he is talking about random 3% packet loss on an otherwise idle line, not loss due to full queues on a router or some other issue. ISPreview.co.uk has shot off a message to BT for comment but the weekend is likely to delay their reply.

Leave a Comment
6 Responses
  1. Avatar Phil

    BT cannot ignored it as 3% packet loss is not accepted by the customers end.

  2. One of our customers has done the sums for us:-

    Using the formulae from http://www.slac.stanford.edu/comp/net/wan-mon/thru-vs-loss.html I conclude that with zero packet loss other than due to congestion, BT Infinity is only limited by my end host (as it should be).

    With 1% packet loss, I calculate a throughput cap of (1460 bytes / 10 milliseconds) * (1/sqrt(0.01)) = 11 Mbit/s. Increase packet loss to 3%, and it’s down to just 7 Mbit/s. At the 10% loss mentioned by another commenter, TCP caps out at 3.6 Mbit/s.

    Are BT really claiming that you shouldn’t expect Infinity to permit you to run at more than 7Mbit/s?

    • Avatar MikeW

      I’m not sure that calculation matches reality.

      Back when I first had FTTC installed, it suffered an average packet loss of 4% or so, by the TBB BQM meter, for the first 2 days until DLM intervened. This repeated itself a few days later, when my line was regarded from a 2Mbps upstream to a 10 Mbps one. The downstream sync speed was 40Mbps before DLM intervened each time.

      On both occasions, the download speed tests it could cope with were around 3Mbps down on that normally seen on a full-speed up-to-40 product: about 33-34Mbps instead of 36-37Mbps.

      I’ll see if I can find more details.

      P.S. I agree though, 3% packet loss *is* bad. Especially if the user wants to stream quality video.

  3. Avatar John

    Apologies if I’ve missed it but you should really link to the original articles when you are reporting on them.

    http://revk.www.me.uk/2014/02/bt-official-3-packet-loss-is-not-fault.html

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