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Football Pushes TalkTalk’s UK Internet Traffic to 8.1Tbps Record

Thursday, December 2nd, 2021 (7:54 am) - Score 2,544
fibre optic data flow 2020

Internet traffic across UK broadband ISPs surged last night on the back of several Premier League Football matches, which were heavily streamed online via Amazon’s Prime Video service. As a result, budget internet provider TalkTalk saw record network traffic, which peaked at 8.1Tbps (Terabits per second).

The new 8.1Tbps peak occurred at around 9pm last night (1st December 2021), which compares with their previous record of 7.6Tbps that was set back in December last year. Both records occurred on the back of football streaming, although last year’s peak was also given an additional boost by the release of several popular video game software updates, which triggered an additional surge in download activity.

NOTE: Amazon are due to host a further batch of “exclusive” Premier League Football matches tonight, from 7pm, so we expect to see another busy evening.

By comparison, most of the additional traffic generated last night occurred as a result of Amazon live-streaming a multitude of football matches via their popular Prime Video service (i.e. Watford v Chelsea, Southampton v Leicester, West Ham v Brighton, Wolves v Burnley, Aston Villa v Man City and Everton v Liverpool).

Phil Haslam, CTO of TalkTalk, said: “Last night’s network peak demonstrates that our appetite for data (and great sport) is showing no signs of slowing down. When Amazon Prime streams football matches, it adds a big surge in demand on our network. That’s because our customers stream the action in real time, and Amazon Prime show multiple games simultaneously so more people watch at once. The last thing any fan wants is to miss their team score, so our brilliant engineering teams worked through the night this week to make sure our network ran smoothly.”

The ISP has also issued a chart of last night’s network traffic, which shows the Tbps traffic rate on the left and the time at the bottom (we assume they were too busy to bother writing the labels in themselves). In our experience, the different coloured bands in such charts tend to reflect different types of network traffic, but sadly TalkTalk hasn’t identified these.

talktalk-1st-dec-2021-network-traffic

A roughly similar surge can be seen by viewing yesterday’s aggregated traffic data from the London Internet Exchange (LINX), which handles a key chunk of UK and global data traffic through their switches via nearly a thousand members (broadband ISPs, mobile operators etc.). Total aggregated traffic hit a peak of about 6.5Tbps at around 8:40pm, which is noticeably higher than prior peaks in the previous 6 days.

NOTE: LINX does not provide a complete overview of the internet traffic flow from all ISPs (e.g. BT alone sees much bigger traffic peaks of c.20Tbps), but they do give a useful indication of how much extra traffic is flowing around as trends seen on other networks tend to show up in their data.

LINX-1st-dec-2021-network-traffic

Most ISPs employ Content Delivery Networks (CDN) to help manage the load from such events, which caches popular content closer in the network to end-users (i.e. improves performance without network strain) and lowers the provider’s impact on external links.

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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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12 Responses
  1. Andy says:

    I think it would be interesting to see their off network traffic as well as a fair amount of this would be CDN traffic rather than external traffic.

    1. Louis says:

      This 8 Tbps is probably combined Internal + CDN traffic.

  2. CC says:

    Given TalkTalk has 4 million-ish customers that would be about 2Mb/s per customer.

    1. Shaun says:

      Extremely unlikely all 4 million+ TT customers would be steaming at the same time.

    2. Shaun says:

      *streaming

    3. Mark Jackson says:

      Yes, most people are not using 100% of their broadband speed 100% of the time. Instead, the majority of us only use a small part of that speed for a large part of the time, and only occasionally does the dial tick-up higher.

      So across an entire network you actually don’t need to provision capacity to cater for 100% of the potential speed of every subscriber (that’s expensive uncontended leased line territory), you instead only need to provision capacity for a small slice of that. Consumer capacity is thus shared in order to keep it affordable.

      For example, as I type this, my 60Mbps connection is only pulling about 0.1Mbps in the background, but it’ll briefly flick up as I submit the comment and load a new page. Later when I open 70 websites at once it’ll max out the line before dropping back again a minute later.

    4. anonymous says:

      Think CC is aware not all customers are streaming at the same time and it’s just an average across the customer base. Capacity planning is done in Mbps/customer so this makes sense as a metric.

      2 Mbps/customer peak sounds about right for TalkTalk. Their usage has historically been relatively low.

    5. CC says:

      It interested me that TalkTalk’s biggest ever peak was – on a per household bases – still only 2/3rds of the bandwidth recommended for a standard Netflix stream.

    6. Shaun says:

      “It interested me that TalkTalk’s biggest ever peak was – on a per household bases – still only 2/3rds of the bandwidth recommended for a standard Netflix stream.”

      Why on earth would peak traffic be measured by recommended Netflix bandwidth per connection, since a ISP’s customers are never going to watch Netflix all at the same time?

  3. sebbb says:

    CDNs aside, I still strongly believe that it is conceptually wrong to deliver these live video streaming services over unicast streams, this should be all multicast traffic. But of course because of the coordination required to implement that on IPv4 and the reluctancy of deploying IPv6 decently, who knows when we’ll realise that “put more resources there” doesn’t work with the growth that this kind of traffic has.

    1. Wobbly Legs says:

      If it ain’t broke…

    2. anonymous says:

      How do you propose dealing with different qualities of connections at the end user? Adaptive Bitrate / ABR can’t work multicast, neither can TCP-based anything has to be UDP.

      Having to cater for multiple types of devices and software to receive the stream is another complication.

      How do you deal with CPE that don’t support IGMP?

      It doesn’t really work for OTT video. Only video products entirely within the ISP’s network and where they’ve end to end control.

      As soon as a customer pauses the stream, which some will expect to be able to do, they leave the multicast.

      Customers experiencing network congestion will see drops in their stream as there’s no per-client buffer.

      Live streams are bitrate heavy, sport is bitrate heavy, many customers will either be on a suboptimal stream or have a suboptimal experience on the optimal stream.

      Need multicast, RSVP or QoS, CPE that supports IGMP, a set top box. Which will be why the one service that comes to mind that uses multicast, BT Sport, required use of BT Broadband, BT Hub or equivalent own configuration, and BT set top.

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