back to article Analysts warn of US broadband meltdown

Analysts in the US are warning that the country's broadband infrastructure will not be able to keep up with demand, and without massive investment will have reached maximum capacity by 2010. A study from Nemertes Research predicts a massive increase in the amount of traffic that the network has to carry, and a subsequent …


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  1. horrors of tesco

    BT need a kick up the arse

    They have been growing fat from the profits of their infrastructure for far too long without investing anything in modernising it. The 21CN kit that BT are rolling out is a pile of crap, after they converted my telephone exchange to the new kit my broadband speed halved.

    I used to get a steady 8000kbps connection and approx 790k/sec download speed, BT decided that they "may" get a 24000kbps service from the exchange, so installed the new kit, for the first 10 days afterwards my internet was fixed at between 300 and 1200kbps with download speeds struggling at about 50k/sec average.

    BT then decided to "fix" the internet problem, increasing the speed to 3500kbps and about 280k/sec average download.

    Me and the neighbours decided to write a complaint to BT about the speed issue after the exchange upgrade, their response: "You are too far from the exchange, you should not be able to get more than 1000kbps connection speed".

    *spits at BT* I can't wait to move to France, at least I will get a decent fiber infrastructure and connections up to 100,000kbps

  2. Simon Ball


    Some would say that preventing leviathans like Google from emerging is no bad thing.

  3. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    And how is this is a surprise ?

    Hearing about the shenanigans going on over there (Comcast ?), it's clear that the US ISPs have been painting themselves into the "how cheap can we sell it" corner just like the UK ISPs.

    I think the report (as reported here) is overly optimistic - that sort of investment isn't going to happen without some major shift in market dynamics. Whatever happens, I suspect it isn't going to be good news for users faced with ever decreasing service quality unless they switch to a premium priced ISP. Since many ISPs probably won't be able to see what's coming, or a way out of it, we can look forward to some of them "exiting the market" in one way or another - leaving a load of stranded customers as they do so.

    And that applies both sides of the pond.

  4. Joe Stalin

    Start small

    Before we start going off the deep end, start dealing with the problem before it arises. Fibre optic to the door on all new housing, in the situation where no infrastructure currently exsists put in the best there is. That way in 10 20 or 30 years time we will still have a viable system.

    Unfortunatly the typical british method it do it fast do it cheap, anyone got aluminium phone lines? BTs answer to the rising price of copper quick cheap and hopeless for broadband at any distance from the exchange. That could explain the hysteria from the press officer, they know the truth and it ain't going to get better anytime soon.

  5. Chris Croughton

    Death of the Internet, Film at 11

    Haven't we heard this song before? Many times in the last 15 or so years? Although they do have a point, people are demanding more and more bandwidth and this will only get worse with HDTV downloads.

    BT aren't worried, of course, because with their systems few people can even get anywhere near the advertised 8Mb, so there is a built-in limit. And with ISPs limiting downloads to an hour or less per month at full speed there won't be much more data transferred than there is at present.

  6. Dam

    gridlock ? spam halting then ? :p

    Seriously, let it be true...

    We'll lose a lot of porn sites, but hopefully half the spam will get killed in the process...

  7. James

    They're laughing because

    Raising the notion of "investment" with BT in any way shape or form displays a touching naievete bordering on the pathologically innocent on the part of the enquirer.

  8. amanfromMars Silver badge

    AI Word to Weizmann and Wise Men and Fatimas Friends ... The Beta Half of Man?

    Have you considered that BT 21st Century InterNetworking is AI ProVision of Quality as Opposed to just Random Quantity.

    A SMARTer InterNetworking Engine. ..... Tailor Made to Measure and Fit for Any Purpose.

    IT is certainly available to them.

    And that is Golde and not Spam.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. kain preacher

    @By Joe Stalin

    FCC has mandated that ATT must have all homes fiber. ATT is currently putting fiber in all new buildings in my area

  11. Morely Dotes

    Re: gridlock ? spam halting then ? :p

    "...hopefully half the spam will get killed in the process..."

    Pollyanna, meet reality: The *only* thing that will get through will be the spam.

  12. Paul

    @Nicolas Fanget

    Yes, it's possible to do two way broadband by satellite. HughesNet and, um, some other company whose name escapes me just now, offer it in the USA. My boss has it in his holiday home out in the boonies.

    He hates it, and only keeps it because he hates dialup even more. Lag time is obviously bad (we had to hack around at Windows XP DNS timeouts and caching just so he could resolve domain names most of the time), transfer rate is decent sometimes, forget it if a typical Southern thunderstorm gets in the way of the satellite, and their Ts&Cs/customer service is of the usual sort large companies provide when they know they're the only game in town.

    There's some local outfit near me providing line-of-sight wireless, but with all the hills and valleys here coverage is spotty at best, albeit improving as they expand. If I'm going to have any sort of usable broadband within the next decade, that's likely to be where I get it.

    Which brings me to my other point: a large chunk of the US populace, myself included, is outside coverage of any reasonably priced broadband service. I find it ludicrous that anyone is talking about "running out of broadband capacity" when half of us are still stuck with bloody dialup anyway, and probably still will be long after this supposed meltdown has been and gone.

  13. Nick


    8000kbps? Where? Or is that to cover the BT engineers who setup camp in the exchange?

    Still, I'm sure the American's will be blaming Al-Qaeda and the immigrants for the traffic flow problems.

    What the net needs is good traffic prioritisation - making sure only the best pron and Paris Hilton stories fly across the net quicker than all that e-mail and Skype traffic.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    @ Nick: Re WTF

    FYI as an Openreach (BT) engineer I'm lucky to get more than 5000kps INSIDE a telephone exchange, sitting next to the DSLAM! I have been temped to plug my Ethernet directly into a DSLAM & find if there is a difference in speed but I'm worried about all the hidden CCTV's & getting caught 'tampering' with the Other Service Providers equipment, so I felt keeping my job was better than idle curiosity! :-(

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What they might do to solve this problem.........

    Is put us back on dial up/some ridiculously slow connection ,rather than the broadband we are on now.

  16. slave138
    Black Helicopters

    In the US...

    ... Our broadband providers are doing little to improve capacity because it feeds into their excuses to push for anti-net neutrality legislation.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    BT need a kick up the arse - II

    Its amazing how such a monpolistic situation can exist in a first world country.

    This example clearly shows the uncaring attitude of the organisation.

    Every time someone in UK wants a BB account they need to pay for BT FAT CATS. And hence the service quality depends on the ability of BT folks whose jobs are secured for life.

    If someone is kicking them - do one on my behalf too mate.

    Maybe this is something we as a country can learn from yankees....

  18. heystoopid

    it is all about numbers

    Sadly we forget that all telco's march to the drums from the ever corrupt bent and mostly shallow me , myself and I Wall Street type financial analysts which infests all financial markets from A to Z , making basically unrealistic demands called annual increases in profits first and then all customers last period ! This is so as to feed their back pockets and wallets with bucket loads of cash by any crooked means possible , that is unfortunately a major problem called greed !

    Further with the onset of rapid decline in the post war baby boomers numbers who are virtually driving the current market and are about to be replaced by less then half the number in the replacement sicker generation coming thus demand will peak then rapidly decline after 2020 in the west !

    So it is all about numbers and in the end the customer is always the last digit in any Wall Street equation thus far !

    Mind you the French did implement a post revolution creative entertaining solution in the late eighteenth century on what to do with one bunch of corrupt and unwanted newly created class of the former greedy and avaricious aristos who for some reason had the same traits as a modern Wall Street analyst of today , being suddenly reduced to penury for their crimes against the people and empty the prisons at the same time !

    What price a choice indeed ?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: BT need a kick up the arse - II

    You know, there is nothing to stop other companies building and installing their own infrastructure within their own exchange buildings, ducts, joints, cabinets, distribution points, cables etc.

    It is foolish and narrow-minded to assume that infinite speeds can be achieved over copper. Fibre is coming in, slowly but will be totally useless until 21CN roll-out is active. Current fibre in the network is unusable for broadband and upgrading the line card costs £30,000 per card - there are quite a lot and it is a poor investment when 21CN is just around the corner.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Said it all along....

    ...this was bound to happen. bt dont care and never will...typical firm that just do what they want and save money for their directors bonus (for doing nothing!!). our business is about 10feet from the exchange and a NEW cable was put in directly from our buildind, to a lamppost and straight to the exchange still only gets 7MB. we had internet problems and bt engineers admitted a router in the exchange was faulty...for over a month it was broke (to a business) and they said they wouldn't replace it due to cost. they event got someone to repair it.

    broadband over satellite wont make a difference...we are talking about the core routers and infrastructure that is not coping. satellite still have to communicate with the infrastructure on the ground that provides the data to the satellite and its the problem!

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    BT's mistake

    Clearly BT's mistake is that it doesn't employ enough of the commentators above...

  22. Solomon Grundy

    It's a Trick

    It's all marketing you know. The core infrastructure for broadband to the entire US is already in place, and has been for years. The catch is that the "secondary network" (the wires that go to your house) hasn't been put in place because the telcos say "we won't install that until we have proven demand". Look around in your town for the little brick buildings with no windows - it'll either be a Jehovah's Witness temple, or a telco switching station, one of which already contains broadband infrastructure...

    (here's a hint - the switching station usually has a teclo branded sign out front)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Reality check...

    Some good points, but who's going to pay for Billions of pounds of the proposals above. Is BT not owned by shareholders, and therefore a business just like any other? It has an obligation to supply a service - which it does - but not to support the pipedream fantasies of some, of inifinite bandwidth.

    This is the real world remember...

    P.S. What about the media/content providers choking the networks to death by using ISPs to deliver their content via Peer-Peer rather than investing in faster Internet Connections...

  24. Geoff Johnson


    I get a sync rate of 8Mb/sec to the exchange but with the contention ratios in use by the ISPs I get no where near that transfer rate.

    Basically the UK hit this problem a while ago and aren't showing any signs of fixing it.

  25. this

    BT ahead of the game

    BT (that's British Telecom not BitTorrent) already have the solution up and running, so there's no need for any further infrastructure improvement. Its called 'Traffic Shaping' - works really well and costs practically nothing. Sorted.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Huh, wot?

    How on earth do the projected BW limitations of many broadband users in the US (a huge set of leaf nodes) adversely affect BT users (another huge set of leaf nodes)??

    Are you talking about transit via PTTs/telcos between them? Direct-peering with US ISPs? Utterly apples and sofas. These aren't "local loop" connections by any stretch. BT (AS5400) is using Level3/.../direct-peering to N.A. NAPs+ISPs, and C&W/FLAG/.../direct-peering to Asia ones. BT's also using several local peering points throughout the EU for "local" ISPs. (All of which are verified via any looking glass server _du jour_.) So, what's the problem again with BT users re: projected N.A. broadband meltdown?

    @Paul: *sigh* Internet via satellite (a looooooong fat pipe) drives TCP nutso with the RTT. It's no wonder your boss dislikes it. I like to gawk at it (mostly) working: it's like a miracle freak of nature. I do feel the pain though.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    don't forget that.....

    It does not matter how close you are to the exchange... whether you are on fibre..... or what bandwidth you thought you bought.

    For most Broadband customers, the contention is set by the ISP... could be as low as 50 to 1.... just divide everything you thought you would get by 50 (at least...and remeber they can reduce it further by having smaller hub end pipes from the Broadband network (COST) and also smaller pipes onto the Internet (COST)) so unless you pay alot more for uncontented service, that will be the average of what you get.

    Cheap BB......leads to less investment.....couple this with high customer expectations...leads to failure of the service to satisfy.

    Pay more?

  28. Mats Koraeus





  29. Anonymous Coward

    Speeds have dropped

    I used to sync at 8000kbps and hit download speeds of 750kb/s. Now I sync at 5500 and only download at about 290kb/s. Thats only just faster than a 2Mb line!!

    Nothing has changed except the amount of ADSL users my small village has!

    Does anyone know what the average small exchange uplink/backhaul speeds are?

  30. Dr. Mouse

    Maybe it's me...

    I may be completely wrong here (if so, I blame too many rehearsals, too much work and not enough caffein or sleep), but doesnt BT's response miss the point entirely?

    From what I can see, it is network capacity, not the speed of the link to the end user, which is the problem. Therefore, installing fibre to greenfield sites and upgrading to adsl2 will only make the problem worse.

    However, I will agree with the anonymous coward that this article is about projections for the US, so we have no idea whether anything near the same is true for the UK. We should avoid extrapolation outside the confines of the data we have collected.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Actual download speeds

    In all the comments in the media and forums, no one seems to be made aware that the sync speed you will get from the DSLAM will not be the throughput rate you'll get from a download or a speed checker site.

    As a rule of thumb, you should take 20% off the sync speed for ATM & PPP overheads to come up with the actual throughput rate you could expect.

  32. Anonymous Coward

    21CN is OLD news

    Was in a briefing once with a Telstra (Australia's BT) executive once, going on and on about how good the network is, this was about 3-4 years ago, and he just happen to let slip, that this amazing almost-future-proof network they rolled out decades ago, is being pretty much copied for BT's 21CN.

    So, 21CN isnt realy 21C at all, its 20CN!

  33. djberriman

    How to solve it

    Well its looks a no brainer to me.

    Actually get your head out of the sand (isps) and do something REAL about spam. Since about 95% of email is spam think how much bandwidth would be saved if you actually DID something.

    You could then actually do something about DOS attacks and continual probes by compromised kit and save even more bandwidth.

    Not only that it would be green too, think of all the power you will save by not having to add more kit to cope with demand to transmit all that spam and all that DOS/probe traffic.

    but then back in the real world.....

    I guess just adding more bandwidth and moaning about it is simpler.

  34. Jonathan Nelson

    Voipex can help ease the pressure on the net

    My company has some clever software that reduces the overall impact of Voice traffic on the internet, so whilst this will not sole the problem people who use our VIBE (Voice over IP Broadband Enhancement software) will recue the overall payloads clogging up the net freeing more space for other traffic.

    A quick fix that improves the quality all of your voice conversations.

  35. Thomas Jerome
    Thumb Down


    When you change a nationalised department (BT) into a for-profit organisation that thanks to regulatory interference (Ofcom) that sees said company making a loss on every line that gets sold (Openreach/LLU) to THEIR BUSINESS RIVALS who have no interest whatsoever in setting up their own infrastructure, do you really expect BT to give a flying fig?

    "bt dont care and never will..."

    With such amazing incentive courtesy of Piss-Off Com, is it really any wonder?

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