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Report Points to P2P Problems

Light Reading
News Analysis
Light Reading
12/30/2003

Light Reading today published a report on peer-to-peer (P2P) traffic, focusing on two aspects of it -- how to prevent it becoming a problem, and how to actually make money from it (see Controlling P2P Traffic).

The report, by Geoff Bennett, Heavy Reading Chief Technologist, starts by demonstrating why P2P traffic is a big issue for a lot of service providers, namely:

  • It now accounts for 50 to 70 percent of all Internet traffic, according to P-Cube Inc., a developer of P2P management technology. ISPs often don’t realize how much P2P traffic they’re handling because P2P protocols deliberately disguise themselves to sidestep efforts to control traffic volumes.

  • A high proportion of P2P traffic goes “off net.” In other words, it doesn’t stay on an ISP’s own network. ISPs end up having to pay transit charges to other operators for carrying traffic that isn’t even earning them a profit.

  • P2P traffic is symmetrical, so it makes awkward use of asymmetrical DSL lines. P2P traffic also runs continuously. There’s no periods of high and low demand, which rules out trying to accommodate it in off-peak periods.
The report reviews ways of controlling P2P traffic without upsetting users. One example is to cap upstream bandwidth but not downstream. This not only suits ADSL technology but also means that users experience good performance on the aspect of the service they can see -- incoming files. They’re less like to be aware that outgoing files are suffering delays.

Finally, the report looks at how service providers can generate new revenues from P2P, typically by offering a two-tier Internet access service -- a basic one with capped P2P bandwidth and a premium one in which specific channels (for gaming, for instance) get more bandwidth. The article points out that service providers have mastered the business of billing people for small amounts of money, and should leverage this when working with content providers.

More details in the report: Controlling P2P Traffic.

— Peter Heywood, Founding Editor, Light Reading


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