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UPD UK ISP TalkTalk Uses Traffic Management to Block Users from Playing OnLive

Posted: 30th Sep, 2011 By: MarkJ
onlive uk bttalktalk uk dpi internet isp privacy concernCustomers of broadband ISP TalkTalk are up in arms after discovering that the providers strict Traffic Management measures do not allow them to use the newly launched cloud-based gaming service from OnLive during peak hours (6PM to 12AM/Midnight).

OnLive is a clever service that allows customers to remotely play the latest PC, PlayStation 3 (PS3) and XBox 360 (360) games, without actually needing to own them, via a live internet video stream. It recently launched in the UK as part of an exclusive deal with BT (here) but can still be used through other ISPs.

OnLive's service requires a lot of bandwidth (broadband speed) to function (3Mbps to 5Mbps) and also makes use of the often unfairly demonised P2P (Peer-2-Peer File Sharing) protocol. P2P is also used by thousands of legitimate services, such as the online game World of Warcraft (WoW) and Valve's STEAM Digital Distribution platform.

onlive uk network problem

Unfortunately TalkTalk, like a lot of other budget conscious broadband ISPs, makes no bones about its dislike for P2P and does impose restrictions (i.e. "slowed down") upon any related services. The provider has had similar problems with WoW and other legitimate P2P based games and services in the past, although most of those are considerably less bandwidth hungry than OnLive.

TalkTalk's Fair Usage Policy

A very small number of customers use an excessive amount of the network bandwidth at peak times, to the extent it can impair the performance for others. For this reason we have a fair usage policy designed to ensure your service stays fast and reliable 24 hours a day – it involves monitoring the amount customers download and managing non-time critical traffic on our network, such as Peer-to-Peer sharing.

If a customer’s usage is continually excessive, unfair, affects other users enjoyment of our broadband service, or is not consistent with the usage we would typically expect on that customers current package, we reserve the right to upgrade customers to a package more suited for their usage. In extreme cases we may suspend or terminate the customers ability to access TalkTalk’s broadband service.

The good news is that TalkTalk is often able to make exceptions in its Traffic Management system for specific applications, which it has had to do several times before. According to a post on OnLiveFans, TalkTalk have since said that they "are aware of the onlive issues and are working on a fix".

Despite this issue it is still very important to stress that the OnLive service, irrespective of using P2P, can easily consume vast amounts of data and in a very short period of time. We have seen some ISPs report that users go from a modest consumption (20-40GB) to eating up hundreds of GigaByte's within a single month, which many budget providers would find unsustainable.

Quite simply OnLive damages the model that a lot of providers use and even BT's traffic management policy exception for the service will only last for a few months, after which similar problems could arise. It remains to be seen whether OnLive will succeed in the UK, especially given our often woeful broadband infrastructure, although a few ISPs will probably be hoping that it doesn't.

UPDATE 1st October 2011

TalkTalk has just furnished us with the following statement.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson said:

"Unfortunately the recently launched OnLive gaming service was incorrectly identified as a peer-to-peer application. We’ve changed this and are currently testing with customers. We apologise for the inconvenience this has caused."

So hopefully it's playable now.
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