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UPDATE BitTorrent P2P File Sharing Client to Restrict Own Broadband Traffic

Posted: 03rd Nov, 2009 By: MarkJ
utorrent logoBroadband ISPs in the UK may soon be able to start lifting restrictions on P2P (File Sharing) traffic thanks to a significant change being made to BitTorrent's uTP protocol. The update will effectively allow popular P2P clients, such as the forthcoming uTorrent 2.0, to restrict how much traffic they use when uTP detects that the ISPs network is becoming too congested.

Many Internet providers have adopted various Traffic Shaping and Management measures that specifically target P2P, which is usually as a result of a small proportion of customers using up a majority of bandwidth via file sharing clients for both legal and often illegal means (see yesterdays entanet news). But the new uTP update could change all that.

BitTorrent's VP for Product Management, Simon Morris, informed:

"This has obvious benefits for users who will no longer congest themselves, benefits for publishers who want to use BitTorrent but also want to protect their brand when users seed content on their behalf, and benefits for ISPs who should see far fewer support issues with BitTorrent causing congestion and impacting other users on the network."

The new method works by measuring an ISPs latency performance which, without getting too techy, is the time is takes for a packet of data to go from the sender to the receiver over a network (i.e. from your computer to another etc.). High latency can be visualised in multiplayer Internet games becayse it results in odd stuttering effects, causing players to stutter around (lag).

Simon Morris Added:

"Legacy BitTorrent traffic uses the standard internet “TCP” protocol to govern when it tries to go faster or slow down. The problem with TCP is that it can only detect a problem by waiting to see if packets are dropped. Unfortunately, by the time packets are being lost, the problem is already acute and the consumers connection has already drastically slowed or stopped. TCP is a lot like trying to drive with your eyes closed. You only notice something’s wrong when you hit something.

μTP is like driving with your eyes *open* – μTP is able to see problems coming and make much more modest adjustments to ensure the problems don’t cause a car wreck. It does this by being able to detect congestion on a network based on how long a packet takes to be sent from one peer to the next. If things start to take longer, then μTP adjusts the rate of sending accordingly.

As it happens, this trick has required some very deep engineering work – the way the client talks to other clients has had to be completely re-built. As a side effect, because the new protocol so different, it is practically invisible to some of the nasty traffic shaping techniques that some ISPs have been using. We doubt whether this happy result will last for long, and nor is it the point of the technology. The point is to reduce the need for such gear rather than to evade it."

Of course we cannot judge precisely how this will work in the real world until it is released out of beta and to all final BitTorrent based clients. Indeed high latency doesn't always mean that service speeds will be slower or lack bandwidth, it can be caused by other factors too, such as a general fault or ISP side restrictions.

However, without getting into the nitty gritty tech jargon (if you like that sort of stuff then read this), the enhanced uTP is probably not going to completely solve the "problem" of excessive P2P traffic eating up most of an ISPs bandwidth. However it might help a little.

UPDATE - 12:12pm

Added an extra quote to better explain how it works.
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