Bandwidth Priority

1. What is traffic prioritisation?
2. Why do we use traffic prioritisation?
3. How is the traffic prioritised?
4. How does prioritised traffic compare to unshaped traffic?
5. Does Traffic Prioritisation help during high-demand or outage situations?

What is traffic prioritisation?

We’ve all experienced it at some point.

You happily browse the web or stream a movie when suddenly your internet speed plummets and grinds to a halt, as though it’s stuck in cement. This interruption to your browsing or movie streaming is usually due to something known as traffic prioritisation.

Traffic prioritisation, or band width prioritisation, is a traffic management method used to assign priority levels to different traffic protocols, such as Gaming, Peer to Peer (P2P) or Voice Over IP (VoIP).

The broadband network is like a highway. When the traffic is light, all vehicles are able to flow easily at their speed-limit. Some lanes of the highway have been reserved for important traffic, such as buses or emergency vehicles. During rush hour, ordinary vehicles are forced to slow down. However, traffic in the reserved lanes can continue to travel at high speeds.

Why does Webafrica use traffic prioritisation?

We want our customers to know what to expect from our ADSL packages. So we are always open and upfront about our products and services. Most internet service providers prioritise traffic in some way, but we’re one of the few who are happy to share these specific details with our customers.

Here are the reasons why Webafrica prioritises traffic:

  1. To ensure that our customers receive a fast, high quality and sustainable online experience, all the traffic on the network is prioritised by type.
  2. To prevent network flooding: without traffic prioritisation, P2P and other high volume downloads, traffic could flood the network and slow down speeds for time-sensitive applications such as games, virtual private networks (VPN), VoIP and live streaming.
  3. To provide a service relative to the amount each customer pays in terms of usage and experience.
  4. To prevent non-time sensitive download traffic from slowing down interactive applications like web-browsing and email.
  5. To be able to adjust the network in the event of an unusual peak in traffic, or in freak situations (e.g. a network outage).

Throttling rating system – Uncapped and capped accounts

A script that runs over the network calculates the average usage in your area. When your usage significantly exceeds that of the average determined on the network, the 5-star throttling process commences. Please see the Webafrica star rating system.

This usage is generated and monitored over a 10-day rolling period. Please keep in mind that usage between midnight and 6 am is unlimited and does not affect your star rating or daily threshold.

i.e. Using 2 GB per day on your Home Uncapped 2 Mbps plan, will not affect your rating and will keep you in the safe zone.

How is the traffic prioritised?

Below are the various Bandwidth Priority Profiles that explain the specifics of how traffic is prioritised.

Silver Titanium Gold Platinum
 Browsing  Medium Good High High
 Voice over IP  High High Very high Top
 Gaming   High High Very high Top
 Video & audio streaming  Good High Very high Very high
 Secure web (HTTPS)  Good High Very high Very high
 Security (VPN)  Good High Very high Very high
 Terminals  Good High Very high Very high
 File transfer   Medium Medium Good Good
 Peer-to-peer   Best effort Best effort Best effort Best effort
 Other   Medium Good High High

This table shows how our products fit in the different bandwidth profiles.

Silver Titanium Gold Platinum
  Products   Home Uncapped  Home Capped  Home Capped Pro  Business Capped Pro
 Business Uncapped  Business Capped
 Business Uncapped Pro

Please note that an application that is not using the standard port may not be identified correctly, which will result in the traffic being classified as “Other” and therefore having a lower priority applied.

Ranking Prioritisation: Priority from highest to lowest:

  1. “Top” is the highest prioritised traffic and is prioritised over any other profile.
  2. “High” has more importance/priority than “Medium”
  3. “Medium” is the  same as “Best Effort”, unless there is a big back-up on the network, then “Medium” traffic will be prioritised over “Best Effort”.
  4. “Best Effort” has the lowest priority profile and does not provide any certainty of priority.

How does prioritised traffic compare to unshaped traffic?

With unshaped traffic, all traffic types are treated the same. While this may sound attractive, it is actually problematic as there is no intelligent traffic management. So it is likely that protocols, such as P2P and other download traffic could choke the network as no provider sells ADSL on a 1:1 contention ratio. This could slow down time-sensitive applications (games, VoIP VPN and streaming) and interactive applications (Web-browsing and email).

By using traffic prioritisation, we can ensure that critical applications have a higher priority and will remain fully operational regardless of the current network load. In addition, by effectively using traffic priority management we also reduce the chance of the network becoming congested in the first place.

Does Traffic Prioritisation help during high-demand or outage situations?

In high demand situations where unusual events result in high network traffic, such as streaming coverage of live sporting events or Windows and game updates, real-time applications are made a priority. To maintain a usable experience for interactive applications, there may be tactical rate-limits applied to certain traffic types. In this scenario, the objective is to protect the experience of time-critical and interactive applications.

During outages, we are able to manage the network’s lowered capacity according to the conditions the network is under. This will alter the customer experience according to the changing demands.

In the event of a large scale network failure, for example, if we were to lose a central pipe, we might have to block all advanced protocols on all accounts and rate-limit all accounts for all other traffic. This will help us provide at least a bare minimum real-time service for as many people as possible. For example, we may limit all P2P and File Transfer Protocol (FTP) traffic and rate limit other traffic at 512kbps.

We prioritise bandwith so that you can have a quality online experience, saving you from horrible traffic jams and any subsequent ‘road rage’.

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