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Customers of UK ISP BT See Multiplayer Lag Spikes During Streaming UPDATE

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019 (8:24 am) - Score 12,161
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Over the past few months some customers of BT’s broadband service have been contacting ISPreview.co.uk to highlight an unusual issue, which causes high ping (latency / lag) spikes while playing online video games at the same time as somebody is also streaming a video (Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Sky on Demand etc.).

At this point we should say that there are all sorts of natural reasons why latency can spike on slower lines (e.g. trying to enjoy multiplayer when all the bandwidth is being sucked up by somebody else streaming a video is rarely fun). Nevertheless in this case the issue is also occurring on much faster connections, where the spare bandwidth isn’t being even remotely taxed by streaming (i.e. there’s ample upstream and downstream capacity).

bt_latency_spikes

The same issue, which seems to cause significant and sporadic lag (latency) spikes of up to 200-300ms (milliseconds) in multiplayer games (often occurring every few seconds), does NOT crop up when customers on affected connections have switched to a different ISP with the same connection type. We should add that changing router made no difference, which again points back to BT’s side of the network.

A large number of related topics about this issue can also be found on BT’s Community Forum (here, here, here, here and here among many others) and many of those who complain say they first spotted the issue near the start of 2019, although experiences do vary. Likewise it doesn’t seem to matter what video game or platform is being used (Xbox Live, Steam etc.) as the same issue will still occur when streaming.

Example Complaint (Tmillo)

“I’ve had BT for years now and never had any problems. I can normally game happily at an optimal (20ms) ping and my girlfriend can happily watch Netflix/Prime on the BT Youview box. However, since early January her usage has caused my ping to rise to 120ish. This just makes playing unbearable.

Now, I’d normally just agree that it’s too much strain but I have no idea why it went from being perfect to this seemingly random. I tried contacting BT, running speed checks but everything looked fine. It’s just the second she starts playing, my Xbox becomes unbearable.”

Example Complaint (hawicky)

“It’s honestly ridiculous. The forum is riddled with posts DAILY of this issue, and BT is somehow completely oblivious? It’s honestly unusable. Living in a house with 4/5 other people means this issue is constant, even until as late as 2am. None of the support from BT has helped the issue one bit. They were going to send an engineer to our house, but then cancelled the engineer as they thought they could fix the problem from the cabinet. Receive a text a couple days later saying “issue is fixed” which is a complete lie, ping spikes all the way up to 250-300ms every 2 seconds. Ludicrous.”

Example Complaint (GazzaLFC)

“I have been with BT for a long time and all of a sudden (last couple of months’ maybe) whenever someone else in the house uses Netflix my games lag. I don’t know why, we have not changed/introduced anything so I can only assume BT have changed something?”

The problem does not appear to be affecting everyone but it’s clearly not terribly isolated either, although in researching this we’ve struggled to find a common dominator that might help to identify the cause (outside of the general video streaming connection of course). Various configuration problems with network routing / peering, traffic management, DNS, Content Delivery Networks (CDN) / caching and so forth come to mind.

Most of those who have complained are also upset at the seeming lack of response or acknowledgement from BT on the issue. A couple of people claim that the problem went away after they threatened to cancel their service and switch to a different ISP, although this may be merely coincidental.

In fairness even we didn’t pay much attention to it until recently, when more complaints started to fall our way. Mainly because it’s hard to distinguish such gripes from the normal issues that may occur on a congested connection. However, as above, most of those complaining aren’t in this boat and have faster services.

Naturally we have been badgering BT about this since last week and they admit that it’s a complicated problem, albeit without offering much insight into the cause.

A BT Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

“We’re currently investigating reports from a small number of customers who are experiencing increased latency when video streaming and gaming simultaneously using the same connection. We’re working closely with our network partners to resolve the issue as soon as possible and we apologise to those affected for any inconvenience caused.”

The good news is that BT now seem to acknowledge that “the issue” does exist but sadly there’s no indication of when it might be resolved. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this one to see if there are any changes or improvements to the situation over the next few days, weeks or months.

UPDATE 14th Aug 2019:

Some of the feedback we’ve had about this since yesterday is increasingly leading us to suspect that the culprit might, possibly, have to do with how BT caches internet traffic / content for video providers closer to their network and also prioritises different kinds of traffic. At first we didn’t think this would cause the kind of latency spikes seen but our view is starting to shift.

In a somewhat oversimplified explanation. We think that video gaming traffic (multiplayer) may be finding itself a little stuck behind video content because the two types of traffic are being given a different priority; where as other ISPs tend to put them into the same priority (e.g. best efforts normal).

The way BT’s system works might thus account for the spikes in latency but I must stress, this is only a theory based on feedback from users and somebody familiar with the technology. It may be possible to test this by tweaking the DNS but that’s a work-in-progress train of thought.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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54 Responses
  1. Avatar Adam Jones

    I’ve had this sort of issue for around a year with BT. I bought a router with QoS so no single device could consume all of the bandwidth which helped. Now having issues for the past two weeks regardless of streaming usage.

    This is a definite issue though which BT needs to address.

    • Avatar 125us

      QoS can’t work on a public Internet connection. At best it will try to manage your traffic queue for upstream data. It won’t and can’t do anything downstream.

    • Avatar Jonathan Ridsdale

      I have a netduma and it definitely helps with that issue, I have currently asked bt to change to business broadband will let people know if this makes a difference

    • Avatar Blueacid

      @125us – QOS can accomplish something downstream. OK, It’ll do nothing against a UDP storm, but if you drop some of the packets from a downstream TCP connection, that connection will back off.
      So you can throttle large downloads, most streaming (especially that which is using HLS as its transport). Odds are high that these are a high proportion of traffic. So if you’re on a slow or congested link, downstream QOS is entirely a tool in your armoury to manage the situation.

  2. Avatar GARY

    Not a shock to me that ping/latency type issues are stonewalled by BT, I’ve had latency issues this entire year, Getting past the standard fault script and a line test is seemingly impossible.

  3. Avatar h3x1e

    So my thread is listed here, and yes the issue still persists. I’m working with one of the MODs of the community forums right now to try and get BT to take a deeper look into the core network.

    I’m getting updates quite regulaly but just waiting now one team to hear back from another team in order to update the MOD i’m working with on this.

    You can see some of my ping tests / results in the first (Here)linked in the threads under the related topics part of the atricle. I’ll keep that updated as much as possible.

  4. Avatar Andy W

    I seem to get the same issue when using Facetime with it cutting out and reconnecting. Doesn’t happen with the same Meraki AP/Security appliance and iPad from another connection.

  5. Avatar James

    I thought it was just me but if someone is watching nowtv or twitch my connection pings fly up with plenty of bandwidth spare… Games start to complain after

  6. Avatar Spoffle

    I’m actually leaving Virgin and going to BT FTTP because of the Virgin Puma 6 lag issues… This is the last thing I want to hear.

  7. Avatar Blair Keen

    Yes reported same issue. Promised an engineer out in 10 days. Sent me a 4G hub in the meantime, but no faith in them fixing it any time soon.

  8. Avatar Laurence "GreenReaper" Parry

    Funny how this seems to have come in about the same time they were starting to roll out extra parental filtering. More packets, more problems?

    Normally such filtering takes place on the outbound connection establishment, but I could see them having to do more to counter cases where you contact one site and it triggers a stream from another source, over UDP, say. And of course, for both games and streaming you have packets regularly going both ways that have to be on time.

  9. Avatar Mike

    People should be punished for being stupid enough to choose ISPs like BT.

    • Avatar GARY

      And your recommended ISP for intelligent people would be ?

    • Avatar SilverBack.

      Unfortunately Mike that’s the only choice, you’ve got when you don’t live in the big bad City, and live in a Rual Area.

    • Avatar Gary

      I’ve got the option of SKY or talk talk LLU from our exchange, Sadly both get slated for performance.

      If it was actually easy to try another provider I’d have given either or both a go, but Its not realistic to have to sign up to a new contract on the off chance its better, to have to go through the cancellation and re provisioning to another supplier.

      I’ve tried to get BT internet to engage in diagnosing my ping issues to narrow down where its going wrong but zero interest, line test says its ok cheers thanks bye.

    • Avatar John

      What exchange has only BT available for FTTC?

      Rural or not that would be a 1st for me.

    • Avatar bob

      Gary
      August 13, 2019 at 1:17 pm

      I’ve got the option of SKY or talk talk LLU from our exchange, Sadly both get slated for performance.

      ^^ that’ll teach you to listen to rumors from technology idiots. i can game on talktalk and stream at the same time just fine.

    • Avatar Gary

      Great so I’m allegedly stupid for being with BT and I listen to technology idiots who dare to voice their experiences with SKY and Talk talk.

      I’m happy you can Game just fine on your ISP, I’m sure there are others who cant. Your experience being positive doesn’t in any way negate someone elses bad experience.

      Ultimately it’s a suck it and see scenario, far too many variables in Line length, age route, cable material, Exchange equipment, backhaul and so on.

  10. Avatar Jonathan Ridsdale

    After receiving the bt business hub I don’t know why it’s not the hub everyone gets its way more better dns hosting modem only mode more technical firewall support etc it’s much more better

  11. Avatar SilverBack.

    Yep, why does this not surprise me, I’ve been a game for a few years and though, Bt are better then most providers, there has always been issues, I changed Routers and went to the so called Super fast fibre, but still at certain times get lag low connection and high ping. The problem is that many of us are still on half fibre and high copper wire, until full fibre is put straight through then this issue will continue..This country is world leaders in so many Areas, but unfortunately we still have a low poor Internet service.

  12. Avatar Matthew

    Im getting this issue right now and BT customer support treat me like I’m tlaking out my arse. The don’t even understand what ping is, and when you explain it to them they just say that your internet package doesn’t quote a ping speed so suck it. Even though this problem was night/day and 100% started on my line back in December of last year.

    So if I change providers all the line is set up exactly the same but the issue goes away? how does that work?

    • Avatar Gary

      “your internet package doesn’t quote a ping speed so suck it.”

      This ! We’re still stuck with this attitude that getting a connection is an added bonus and how good or bad it turns out to be is irrelevant.

      This goes all the way back to the very start of home internet use and its always been hard to get OR to do anything much about it. One upside of the USO may possibly be that its cheaper to fix/replace a crappy copper line than any of the other solutions.

  13. Avatar Mark

    So if you move from BT FTTC to ID Net FTTC using the same open reach equipment, you’ll still have this same problem?

    • Avatar John

      No.

      Every FTTC ISP uses the same OpenReach equipment. That’s the actual FTTC cabinet (DSLAM) and some of the equipment in the exchange.

      Different ISP’s can use different backhaul (beyond the exchange) and different transit/peering.

      Even using the same backhaul a different ISP can be significantly better than BT.

    • Avatar Mark

      Thanks John.

      I’ve been having this issue kind off for a few months, I was on BT 55mbps FTTC, I got an Nvidia Shield for Christmas and on this service I could play GrForce Now and stream games.. then I was moved to the up to 70mbps service and I get around 66mbps in speedtests, but when another family member watches tennis steaming on the ATP tennis App or through Amazon Prime it kills the game streaming stone dead! I get lags and stuttering and the resolution goes up and down. Although I think the speed changes were a coincidence.
      You need 35 ish MBPS for game streaming and the videos stream at 1080P, but people said my network was saturated, I didn’t buy that for a second..
      Now I know, BTs network is a bit rubbish. I did get a new router and setup QOS to manually cap the streaming to 3mbps and it works fine streaming the same quality at 1080P with no lag, I also could stream games more or less too. 38mbps ish out of 66 leaves more then enough headroom for anything else.

      But I’m going to move I think to ID Net, Plusnet have been considered too but if you have an issue it still takes ages to get through to them.

  14. Avatar FullFibre

    Thanks for giving this issue more coverage. Finally they have acknowledged the issue so hopefully it will get sorted soon, if not I’ll be switching ISP after about 20 years with BT.

    I wonder if a common denominator might be if you have BTTV on the line, we have it and playing the IPTV channels doesn’t cause the issue but playing one of the catchup channels on the same box does.

    For the last 8 months I’ve been working around this issue by rate limiting the streaming devices, with 68 Mbps conection throughput a stream using 10 Mbps limited to 12 Mbps doesn’t cause ping spikes. The stream is at the same quality using the same amount of bandwidth but somehow is not causing the spikes. This is also a pain though because skipping through the stream is slow as it can’t burst using the whole connection bandwidth and it can’t use the whole connection bandwidth for downloads, so we keep turning the rate limit off and on when big transfers need to be done. Also you can still tell something is streaming and if I’m chosen as host players still get dissconnected randomly but it’s at least playable.

    Whatever changed around christmas time has caused this issue, for us it was either a few weeks into january or a few weeks into december, can’t remember exactly but others started complaining about the same time.

    • Avatar FullFibre

      Also BT say there are a small number of people suffering from this, how can they tell that if they are just starting to investigate. It’s not an issue most will likely recognise or know how to test for either. There are a lot of people reporting it and there could be a hell of a lot more suffering and unaware or just switching ISPs when their not happy without reporting it.

    • Avatar h3x1e

      I have the issue and do not have BTTV so it’s not a common denominator. The route people are taking and what seems to be the link between everyone experiencing the issue are the servers at 31.55.186.XXX (HOP 3 & 4) where 3 is about 80-90% packet loss.

    • Avatar Laurence Parry

      Maybe they switched to delivering 10sec chunks for catch-up, similar to HLS mode (vs. regular MP4 streaming) but left it having high priority over other traffic?

  15. Avatar Tim Hitchins

    I’ve raised numerous problems with my broadband performance with BT and they don’t appear to know what’s going on. I’ve had 2 engineers over, after one came I had to reset my router as he’d messed it up (I know these guys are openreach but still).
    They weren’t particularly interested either and hung up on me more than several times whilst talking on the online chat. Tbf they did refund me some money but still very disappointed, will be leaving them as soon as my contract is up!

  16. Avatar dee.jay

    Easy answer, find a new ISP. BT will need millions of further investment to increase capacity if that is indeed the issue. I’ve seen a few mention QoS – and indeed, it will do nothing beyond the router itself – but I do question it’s usefulness even on a LAN. QoS really has no place on an edge router at a consumer premises because the internet will not honour QoS markings.

    • Avatar Breed

      Not true, I’m afraid. QoS on an outbound connection can still discard ‘unimportant’ packets on a congested outbound queue. Meaning if you’ve a 20Mbps upload and you’re trying to push 30Mbps out of it, the router will priorities VoIP/Gaming, or whatever you’ve set, and drop less important traffic like Netflix.

      This is an important aspect of SD-WAN devices that use internet transport mechanisms as the underlay. Just because the marking isn’t honoured in transit, doesn’t mean it’s not useful.

  17. Avatar Token

    This sounds very similar to the problem that made me leave BT 15 months ago. I had flawless performance from them for 9 months, then got a free speed upgrade! After that MMO boss fights became impossible and I’d get randomly kicked from all online games due to dysyncs etc. Switched to now broadband and apart from a local issue that BT had to fix (after telling us nothing was wrong) is been fine.
    With the ridiculous cashback and rewards for new customers I almost went back to BT this week. Glad I’ve been distracted 🙂

  18. Avatar Harry

    BT are useless beyond useless… I shall be cancelling my contract with them as soon as possible… Terrible!!!

  19. Avatar Ian

    I’ve exactly the same problem and have been trying to get Bt to fix it since December.

    I don’t use Bttv and have a 80/20 fibre connection and if anyone streams or one or 2 people use Youtube I get massive ping spikes on a wired connection.

    Bt don’t care about ping and tried to say it was caused by wireless when I said most of my devices in the house were wired and tried to say the connection was maxed when I’ve had it happen with literally one person streamin and me gaming!

    Hopefully now they’re admitting it’s an issue we might get it fixed

  20. Avatar James

    I’m with BT my ping spikes to 200 m&s + even when no one is using the internet. After complaining for weeks, I got put on a new server and the ping issues went away now I’m back to square 1 with them.

  21. Avatar TheQ

    It’s is impossible to play online game which depends on stable ping. Really thinking to switching ISP.

  22. Avatar Matthew

    I have experienced exactly this issue for about 6 weeks now and was relieved to find that there are many other BT customers with this this issue. I’m currently in discussions with community forum moderators but expect it to be customer wide fix as opposed to anything specific to me.

  23. Avatar adrian gibbs

    hi ive been having these problems for months. I had engineers out 5 times changing drop lines re routing cables changing boxes and routers hes even changed my line in the cabinet and still no joy even got the enigineers mobile number has he would like to know the reason.nothing more open reach can do got to be the bt side of things

  24. Avatar TMillo

    Yep. I was the original poster of that thread. Buying a router with QOS and giving streaming the lowest possible priority helped, but it means streaming often buffers and really is only a stop gap solution until I can leave.

    I’ve been with BT for years, but if their “super fast” internet can’t handle one youview box streaming Netflix and one xbox playing online then it’s absolutely useless to me

    • Avatar Hurleh

      what Router did you buy mate? I got a xr500 Netgear one and I prioritised my console’s Upload bandwidth and put the other devices very low but it still gives me ping spikes when someone is watching netflix no matter how high i put my consoles priority, Dont know what to do.

      Cheers

  25. Avatar FullFibre

    Is posting ping plotter results on BTs forum going to help them fix it?

  26. Avatar Hurleh

    Had this issue for about 8 months now, bought a NetGear xr500 Router with QoS to try prioritise my console but it doesnt change anything, if someone is streeaming netflix it still gives me crazy ping spikes, Has anyone got a small fix or any tips yet?

    • Avatar Ian

      No sorry,had it for about 8 months myself and tried everything,even people watching Youtube causes ping spikes.

      Now Bt have admitted it’s an issue we need to keep the pressure on them such as posts on here and the Bt forums.

      Hopefully someone from Ispreview will contact Bt again which will also help

  27. Avatar Jack Burr

    I’m not sure if i should say that i’m glad others have EXACTLY the same issue we have with BT Fibre. It’s disgusting and will be cancelling with them when the contract runs out. I chased this up for months at the beginning of the year but gave up as it caused so much grief. Hours of phonecalls and waiting, money spent on routers/wires/engineer callouts. I feel that i’m more tech-savvy than the average consumer and have learnt a lot more about networking on this journey but have concluded its completely an outside source problem. The issue is specifically whilst myself or another user consumes video streams (YouTube, Twitch, Netflix, NowTV etc.) which causes Ping Spikes every 5-10 seconds of 100% packet loss coming straight from the server box up the road. This packet loss resolves in web pages stuttering whilst loading, YouTube stuttering/buffering, most of all, online game stutter making it unplayable. Hope they fix this as this year of BT has been HELL.

    • Avatar Hurleh

      Sucks bad mate, Dont know how much longer i can wait.. Around my area BT is about the only decent provider so I dont know what to do tbh.

  28. Avatar Gary

    Also facing issues. At some point getting 0.020mbps on speed tests. Usually get close to 16mbps. Was working ok for years until recently. Last month or 2 and is now barely useable. I will cancel if not fixed very soon as streaming just buffers or displays badly. Even web pages slow to load. Not acceptable. I see loads of recent bad reviews/reports for BT service

  29. Avatar Steve

    Same issue here. Having had a stable internet connection with good latency for years, recently overnight I’m getting highly spikey latency which is impossible for online gaming. Download speeds are fine for streaming and general internet use.

    I have had Openreach round, no line faults, the support folks have tried changing my ‘profile’ but no improvement.

  30. Avatar Josh

    I managed to get this issue fixed by sending a complaint to the CEO of BT, I demonstrated multiple screenshots of my own ping issues as-well as the myriad of posts on their own community forums.

    I was able to get my contract removed and told that I could switch to another provider free of charge, I was ecstatic.

    However, the following morning I received a call from a lady at the executive level complaints team who informed me that they are aware of the issue and want to try something in order to fix it, and reminded me that I am no longer in a contract so if the fix doesn’t work I am free to switch provider, so I let them go ahead with the fix.

    I was contacted by a Dean at the executive technical complaints team who again informed me that they are indeed aware of the issue and that he believes the issue is down to how BT prioritise their traffic on the network, and what he was going to do was stick me on the highest priority that they can, usually reserved for businesses. He informed me that the changes have been made and that I should restart my router at midnight for them to take effect.

    Long and behold it worked, no more ping spikes when both TV’s in my house are streaming, ping jitter is minimal, prior to this, having just one TV streaming netflix on the lowest settings would cause a ping spike up in the 300’s every couple of seconds.

    This obviously shows that it is due to how BT prioritise traffic for residential customers, almost strangleholding customers to the point that their broadband is unusable, and then refusing to let customers leave contracts as they don’t “gaurantee ping”. It appears that my issues where only fixed because I went all the way to the top, so it might be worthwhile others trying that route, worse case scenario you might be able to get out of the contract and go with another ISP such as Zen.

    Also, I would just like to add, Keith Baddoe (BT Forum Team) has absolutely no idea what he is talking about, and would accuse customers that the lag spikes were due to our own errors or misunderstanding of how our broadband should be functioning, informing customers that if they do not want lag on FTTC connections, to ensure that nobody else is using the network, absolute garbage and I’m so smug that I have this resolved to prove that he is absolutely clueless, what on god’s green earth is he smoking.

    Good luck everybody.

  31. Avatar Ian

    The issue has not been resolved nationwide at all,lots of people are still having this problem.

  32. Avatar Hurleh

    Well they better fix it asap then if theyve done it for you, pretty unfair, Im on Business BT too and still have this issue 10months going…

  33. Avatar Hurleh

    Anyone heard any news on a BT fix at all?

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