Testing Internet capacity

NBC is streaming the Olympics over the Internet, in multiple resolutions, in what amounts to a massive test of the ability of the Internet fabric to handle load. Nothing on this scale has been done before, although BCC did stream the last Olympics inside the UK using Multicast. So we’re going to learn just how realistic net neutrality really is:

This will be the biggest test today of Internet viewers’ appetite for streaming video of live sporting events – and of the Internet’s ability to handle that.

If the Internet service providers networks start getting maxed out, you can probably expect some “rate shaping” or other bandwidth management techniques to come into play, Eksten notes. After all, you still have to get the e-mail through for non-sports fans.

Which means not just technologists like Eksten but network neutrality proponents should spend a lot of time looking at logs and statistical reports from the service providers, after this is all over to see how the streaming affected the Internet’s fabric of networks.

Stay tuned, if you can.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

This entry was posted in Internet, Net Neutrality. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Testing Internet capacity

  1. Jason says:

    I’m happy we have moved away from blaming P2P in particular. That was
    always a foolish tact when the aim was to justify throttling of any
    bulk data traffic. Unfortunately it seems that the general internet
    populace will react in much worse to throttling of online video than
    P2P users have. Given than an Internet meltdown due to Olympic
    streaming is highly unlikely maybe one should be induced in order to
    get them to see the light.

  2. BitTorrent is unique in that it overloads the upstream path from the user to the ISP network. Generic video streaming from server to user doesn’t do that, so it’s actually a whole different capacity issue.

    And I don’t see how NBC benefits from congestion collapse, but I don’t see black helicopters everywhere either.

  3. George Ou says:

    There are some unique challenges and different challenges in this matter.

    1. The problem with the long-haul undersea fiber isn’t too big of a problem because they’re preventing out-of-country people from accessing the sites. The data is only being transmitted once under the sea so it isn’t a problem.

    2. NBC is probably using some beefy CDN to distribute the content in-order for live and on demand streaming. It’s possible that the CDN infrastructure gets overwhelmed by a burst of traffic in certain locations on the Internet.

    3. The office will be a HUGE problem since most offices have limited capacity to the Internet. A business T1 connection is very common and even one of these 720p 1.4 Mbps streams will saturate the whole pipe. Any smart IT network administrator will block access to these videos from the desktop and if the network can handle it and if management approves, one designated computer in some common area hooked up to a projector could serve as the dedicated Olympics streaming computer. That way you’re only streaming the video once and not 50 different times at 50 times the traffic load.

    4. Smaller ISPs will have to cache this content if they want to spare their Internet uplinks.

  4. They’re not streaming full HD. I tested the US Women’s soccer match against Norway, and it was only 600 Kb/s. They have a mode where you can blow it up to about a quarter screen, and its was pretty blocky. So they’re cutting all the corners except multicast.

  5. George Ou says:

    The web guys like to market 600 Kbps as “HD” since HD was only defined by resolution and not bitrate. Obviously we know that’s a bunch of BS but it hasn’t stopped them from trying to call that “HD”.

    To me, it ain’t pseudo HD until you’re in the 8 Mbps range and it’s not decent until you’re talking about NTSC broadcast quality at 15+ Mbps. Then you have HD DVD and Blu-ray setting the high standard in quality with 30+ and 40+ Mbps.

    Still, a few 600 Kbps streams will take bring a corporate T1 line down to its knees real fast.

Comments are closed.