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UPDATE Broadband ISPs Brace for Free MS Windows 10 Internet Data Hog

Monday, July 20th, 2015 (1:54 pm) - Score 3,771
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On 29th July Microsoft will release its new Windows 10 operating system software, which is being offered as a free upgrade to millions of existing Windows customers around the world. But broadband ISPs are nervous about the impact that so many subscribers downloading the 3GB+ (GigaByte) update could have on their networks.

The weekly “Patch Tuesday” phenomenon (technically it’s Patch Wednesday for many in the UK) is by now quite well understood by most of the United Kingdom’s broadband providers, which often lay on additional network capacity when Windows PC owners across the country apply the latest security updates, fixes and other features to Microsoft’s OS.

But every once in a while the Patch Tuesday update event will be particularly big and that can sometimes slow the domestic Internet performance of even the most well prepared providers, which results in customers suffering a slower service and sometimes even creates issues with higher than normal network latency.

At this point it’s important to remember that domestic grade broadband is a “Best Efforts” service, which is only priced at an affordable level because ISPs share their capacity between many subscribers (if everybody had uncontended connections then you’d pay a lot more). Experiences will of course vary between different providers and locations.

In that sense the release of Windows 10 threatens to be like the worst sort of Patch Tuesday event imaginable, although nobody is quite sure what sort of impact it will actually have because of the uncertain way in which Microsoft will release it.

Never the less some ISPs, such as TalkTalk, inform us that they’re preparing for a potentially huge spike in usage. BT and Sky Broadband are also gearing up and we are awaiting a reply from Virgin Media, but it’s likely their response will be the same.

A BT spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

We are working with Microsoft to ensure the our network will support the launch of Windows 10 without impacting service to our customers.”

A Sky Spokesperson added:

We are committed to ensuring all Sky Broadband customers get the best experience, whether that’s downloading latest software updates from Microsoft or simply surfing the web like any given day. We hope our customers enjoy the new software when it arrives.”

Sky appear to view this as a critical issue and its generally expected that the level of traffic might remain quite high for several days, although like the others they’re also doing what they can to ensure that the service they deliver remains of a good quality. In any case Sky’s network is probably tough enough to handle it all.

The question of how big this data deluge will be, and thus what impact it will have, depends upon Microsoft’s approach to deployment. Patch Tuesday events can range in size from a handful of MegaBytes and rise all the way up into the high hundreds, although at 3GB the Windows 10 update looks set to be well above the norm.

Microsoft has so far said that they’ll release the new software across 190 countries, although it will be conducted in a phased approach so as not to overwhelm their own network(s) and hopefully those of the ISPs too. But the software giant is coy with any meaningful details.

Microsoft Statement

Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users.

If you reserved your copy of Windows 10, we will notify you once our compatibility work confirms you will have a great experience, and Windows 10 has been downloaded on your system.”

What is “slowly scaling up” in figures? How many days, weeks or months will it take? Key details are clearly absent, which ISPs need in order to plan their strategy for coping with any above average demands upon their networks.

But even if ISPs assume the worst case scenario then that doesn’t mean to say consumers on slower connections won’t still suffer. On a 2Mbps connection a 3GB download will take around 3:30hr to 3:50hr to complete, assuming very little overhead and no capacity problems at the ISP. But during that time the performance of other services may suffer.

Thankfully those with a full “superfast” speed (24Mbps) would only need a little under 20 minutes, which is much less of a problem, and if you happen to have a Gigabit (1000Mbps) service then it’ll be done before you can boil a kettle (you lucky.. lucky.. people).

But again, this all rather assumes that the ISPs can cope and that Microsoft actually does get windows 10 out on 29th as planned (they probably will). Plus the download could also be more than 3GB, possibly closer to 4GB. At least so far the ISPs appear to be confident that all will be well.

UPDATE 2:45pm

UK ISP Merula has just issued this service status update: “Whilst we will have brought on-stream additional back-haul being provided by our suppliers, we believe that there will still be some instances of higher latency and slower speeds caused by this, that could affect many of our users especially as this may also affect our supplier core networks. We will make every effort to mitigate these effects but you should be aware this may be an issue before raising a fault ticket.”

UPDATE 28th July 2015

Internet traffic is starting to climb on some networks as the Windows 10 update is slowly starting to download in the background, albeit only if you have reserved it.

Separately Timico have joined other ISPs in putting out an advisor note about a possible impact on Internet traffic (here). Mind you we’re not so sure about their “Anticipated Resolution Time: January 1st 1970 12:00am.” Back to the Future ™?

Leave a Comment
18 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax Real

    hahaha I already got RTM Windows 10 Build 10240. 🙂

  2. Avatar Ignition

    Do ISPs lay on additional capacity just for patches?

    I’m pretty sure that BT Wholesale and LLU WES come with minimum terms, and VM have to invest in hardware to increase capacity, so this seems infeasible.

    • Avatar DanielM

      likely not, am sure they would just change a few Local caching nodes to serve from them instead.

    • Avatar Ignition

      Caches won’t help on BT Wholesale, still have to cross the expensive MSIL. Unless there are caches in the exchanges won’t be much use to LLU operators either.

      Won’t be that much use to Virgin either – bandwidth on the access network is away more expensive to them than transit and peering.

    • Avatar DanielM

      Most don’t use that part of the network (for example EE uses it’s own IP network some resell talktalk which in turn uses those CDN’s)

    • Avatar Ignition

      Most don’t use the transport network between themselves and their customers or most don’t use transit and peering?

    • Avatar JamesMason

      Anyone that has accepted the “Free Windows 10 update” will not have to download the entire thing come 29th July much of it has been downloaded via a KB update in the background, this as far as i know (or noticed) was from last Tuesdays (IE 14th), patch Tuesday, there will be no everyone having to grab 3 Gig at once.

    • Avatar DTMark

      I accepted the offer to download Windows 10 when available, and our internet connection has been sporadically crap for about 36 hours now. Just general slow downs now and again and a speed test just now returns only 23Mbps down despite other traffic to the net being nil. Something is “going on” as this is not normal, it “feels like” something has been under sporadically high load over that period.

  3. Avatar adslmax Real

    @Ignition

    Microsoft released that build(10240) to all insider program customers! That’s isn’t PIRATE!

    • Avatar Ignition

      Okay so you have a beta, not the finished product. Well done 🙂

    • Avatar Ignition

      My mistake. Apologies.

    • Avatar Dan Dodex

      10240 is the RTM, i.e. the final product

      (unless the earlier adopters between last week when it was released and 29th July discover something so bad they have to halt the release of course)

  4. Avatar RaptorX

    @Ignition – no it’s the full RTM version and with no restrictions and as an Insider I have it too.

    You should check your facts first before spouting nonsense and trying to put others down. Just Google it, you’ll get loads of hits confirming this.

    • Avatar adslmax Real

      Yep too right. Ignition always accused me for no reason! I think he has personal attack against me!

    • Avatar Ignition

      My mistake.

    • Avatar Tom

      The changelog noted here:
      http://www.askvg.com/windows-10-changelog

      Seems to suggest it isn’t actually the final RTM build.
      “Windows 10 build 10240 was released on July 15, 2015. Unlike previous Preview builds, this new build arrived via a new branch “TH1″ (ThresHold1). TH1 development branch contains Windows 10 RTM candidate builds. So this new build 10240 is actually very close to the final RTM build.”

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