Foxtel and Stan agree: Peak hour broadband congestion real, significant


news Senior executives from two of Australia’s largest online content providers have provided testimony to the Senate that peak hour and weekend broadband congestion is a real phenomenon that is significantly affecting broadband users around Australia.

Peak hour broadband congestion refers to the phenomenon where a user’s broadband speeds decrease markedly below their theoretical maximum during peak times when many more users than usual are using a certain broadband network.

The phenomenon has historically been observed in Australia primarily with reference to HFC cable networks operated by Telstra and Optus, due to those networks’ nature as a shared network medium. The evidence for peak hour congestion of ADSL or other forms of fixed-line broadband has been much more difficult to find, due to the fact that each user on these types of connections typically enjoys a unique connection back to local telephone exchanges or other infrastructure.

However, testifying before the Senate Select Committee into the National Broadband network last week, executives from both Foxtel and Stan provided evidence showing the extensive and significant nature of the congestion that Australian broadband customers are currently suffering.

Stan chief executive Michael Sneesby said the company commonly observed “a level of last mile congestion” during peak times, between 8pm and 10pm.

“What we observe in the peak period when compared to the hours just prior to the peak period is around a 50 per cent increase in the proportion of users who are experiencing a degraded service,” he told the Senate Committee.

“From the early evening hours to the later evening hours there is a 50 per cent increase in that incidence of degradation, and around a 30 per cent increase in those consumers who are experiencing what we call buffering, which is effectively pausing in their video during that peak time.”

Sneesby said the congestion was commonly seen in the last mile — in the case of ADSL, the link from telephone exchanges to a customer’s household.

“We trace the performance of our network on an ongoing basis, and the data tells us that the majority of those challenges in streaming come in the last mile, which is effectively provided by the retail ISP,” he said.

“… the data tells us that during those peak times in the evening we see overall speed reduction, when we look at our entire base, and we see at the same time a higher incidence of consumers who are either experiencing pausing in their videos, which is due to the video not being able to get enough bandwidth to get down to the consumer, or our adaptive bit rate technology is kicking in, which automatically reduces the quality of your stream in order to deliver a consistent streaming experience, so you are seeing a lower quality video stream on your television set.”

Foxtel executive director of broadband, PMO and IT Andrew Lorken agreed broadband congestion was an ongoing issue.

“On a weekday night many of our customers can download at least a standard definition product without any problem in the world,” he said, “and yet on a Sunday afternoon or a Sunday night they might see some congestion in the network because that is usually the peak hour of the week, and we might get a speed related complaint the following Monday.”

Lorken said most of the speed complaints came from people on ADSL broadband.

“Most of that is because of the current copper-based network for those people not yet on the NBN, but as the NBN rolls out we are certainly seeing fewer people complain. I do not know if we have ever received a speed complaint from those on NBN versus those on legacy ADSL,” he said.

The Opposition Labor party recently revealed that it had received as many as 60 complaints about congestion and slow speeds from early stage users of the Coalition’s preferred Fibre to the Node technology on the National Broadband Network.

However, Foxtel’s Lorken said he didn’t have a large enough sample size yet to determine whether congestion was seen more on Fibre to the Node connections, as compared with Labor’s original and technically superior Fibre to the Premises model for the NBN.

“At moment there is not really a big enough sample size, just because of where the NBN is at the moment,” he said. “Certainly we intend to do that.”

In general, both executives agreed they expected to see bandwidth requirements for streaming video services rapidly expand over the next few years, as more and more customers took up Internet video services and as the quality of those services continued to improve.


  1. Complaining to the wrong people try your owner it is mostly his fault. If he didn’t use his media empire to screw over comms infrastructure in this country something might be being done about for the long term.

  2. No reference to HFC complaints..

    My connection frequently drops from 80+ to 2-3mbs, during congestion periods, making even SD an occasional challenge to stream.

    And, entitled as it may sound, we shouldn’t have to ‘settle’ for HD, ever. Especially at $100 a month.

  3. If only there was a legal way for people to download their
    evenings video watching outside of peak hours!

  4. Bit rich of Stan to complain about congestion. From what I have seen it is in their own network. Come the evening Netflix HD, no congestion on my connection, TwitchTV, no congestion, general internet usage, no signs of congestion. Try to watch something on Stan, buffer, buffer, audio out of sync, buffer, skip, etc. They should fix their own network before complaining about others.

  5. I find my ADSL with internode going south from about 3pm now . Normally get about 6-7mbs drops 1-3 till around 11pm. Emailed them about it answer was pretty much a shrug of the shoulders.

  6. “The evidence for peak hour congestion of ADSL” … “has been much more difficult to find”

    What?! It’s rampant. Just about every exchange and RIM across Australia is experiencing peak hour congestion.


    • Agreed. I’ve been graphing my latency and pings for a while now to attempt to troubleshoot with my ISP, this is AFTER they reported it as “fixed” (it did improve slightly, maybe a 20-30ms average lower , which isnt much when it’s bursting up to 800ms, averaging more like 300-600ms at night)

      I’ve changed ISP’s, but i’m stuck on a Telstra only ADSL2+ exchange, and i have no options but to suck it up, and enjoy my Netflix at minimum res, and my youtube unwatchable until 11:30pm every night, even at standard def.

      Normally i get 16mbit, but that drops down to so low i can’t stream most video full stop during peak times. Games are difficult / impossible to play around those times and its generally horrible.

    • Obviously your with some cheap ass ISP. I’ve been with Internode for years now and peak time congestion has all but disappeared. Stan however, analysis of the constant buffering points to their own network, nothing to do with ISPs. Hopefully the sellout to TPG doesn’t result in the peak time congestion so obvious under TPG based on all the slowdowns customers are reporting in the TPG forum.

  7. “Sneesby said the congestion was commonly seen in the last mile — in the case of ADSL, the link from telephone exchanges to a customer’s household.”

    This is why “Senior executives” should STFU and not give their opinions on technology. He clearly has no clue. You may get a little extra crosstalk if people turn their modems off during the day (not usual) but congestion between the exchange and the household? He obviously doesn’t have a clue how ADSL works.

    Congestion in the backhaul from the exchange, yep. Common when ISPs buy capacity on others backhaul. If they have their own backhaul, very rare. In their transit network yes, in their overseas link, for sure. It all varies from ISP to ISP how much they provision and if they increase it if they get congestions. or if they play dumb and blame it on other things like some budget ISPs tend to do.

    • >>congestion between the exchange and the household? <<

      Well, yes if its due to multiple services to the same home. I've no idea if thats what he meant though.

    • Correct.

      ADSL and VDSL are not going to suffer congestion on the last mile link caused by sharing between different customers, because each customer has their own link, unlike HFC and GPON.

      Most people don’t understand how networks work, so most people shouldn’t be making comments on how and where congestion occurs.

  8. Renai

    I’ve made this post several times but I don’t understand why the media and for that matter the committee don’t understand the situation.

    We have two markets in Australia; Residential and Government and Enterprise (GE). Those two market spaces essentially are sold two forms of connectivity.

    The GE sector gets connectivity between its sites (last mile) back to a central point, usual a megapop/data centre where they’re sold internet connectivity that connects right into their VPN/border.

    The residential sector internet basically goes from the customers address to their local exchange / NBN PoI and then back to the ISP’s MegaPop.

    Be it ADSL, HDSL, SHDSL, Midband (bonded dsl), ethernet over fibre, ATM over fibre, frame relay or even good ole ISDN – whatever the protocol, whatever the physical layer 1 medium everyting boils down to one thing.


    When a GE customer buys a xDSL service to connect a office to their network that 2/2mbps service will be capable of running some serious services. Why, because of how the ISP treats the traffic coming off that service. From the local exchange through to the megapop and then via the ISP’s cloud the traffic is usually treated with a VBR QoS.

    It means that a residential’s traffic, off of their 15/1mbps ADSL service will suffer packet lost, causing time sensitive applications to time out.

    Its not because the ISP network is neccessarily congested. Its just at certain points that the network is essentially prejudice to certain forms of traffic.

    The different in price is significant. The ADSL service is billed $60 a month whilst the GE customer pays $200 per month plus $0.20 per MB. Original pricing like this was designed to share a limited resource. However in early 2000 when gigabit fibre was rolled out across the country, with companies overbuilding capital cities, there was a huge glut of bandwidth.

    What I don’t get, why the ACCC has realised this, is that the ISP formed a cartel and have conspired to reduce supply in order to maintain prejudice pricing and high wholesale bandwidth costs.

    There is a lot of dark fibre in the ground built by AAPT/TPG/iiNet, Netgen, Vocus, Telstra and Optus. This fibre if it was lit up would basically enable the country to give every man and woman unlimited 100mbps internet connections at 1:1 (or close) ratios (for most urban areas – though the odd underserviced rural area would be screwed).

    The ISP keep prices high by trading their pricing managers like football clubs trade coaches. These pricing manager are highly paid individuals who are able to ensure that bandwidth prices drop slowly.

    They’re subtle. Yes bandwidth costs have dropped but they’ve done it at the sametime demand has gone up. So ultimately the monthly bill is still the same for the wholesale bandwidth.

    For example 100mbps in 2006 was $150 per mbps = $15,000
    Today to supply the internet that 100mbps used to supply your order is 1000mbps at $15 per mbps = $15,00

    Yes we have more bandwidth but at the same contention ratios and QoS as before albeit with higher end user demands.

    The name of the game is profit and the telcos, who’s executives have pollinated our political parties have ensured that this unconscionable conduct has gone unmolested.

    We need the government and the ACCC to demand telcos publish contention ratios based on your LGA/Exchange area/NBN PoI. Consumers need to be allowed to see the MRTG graphs to judge whether or not their telco’s internet will meet their need.

    Secondly the Government and Enterprise sector needs to be given protections. The telco’s are ruthlessly overcharging these companies who for the most part pay the bill. I see the charges and their staggeringly massive. A point to point ethernet over fibre network. Something the NBN can supply at $100 per month per service can be charged at $20k a month per service for a corporate customer.

    The media needs to wake up and realise that the NBN project has been crippled to ensure that the GE sector continues to pay these massive prices.

    If a consumer NBN FTTP internet service had 1:1 internet for $100 a month the entire corporate telco sector would collapse as they rushed to buy NBN service.

    The wholesale/RSP arrangement allows the government to wash their hands and blame slow speeds on the RSP/ISPs who really don’t give a crap seeing there is very little choice when comes to internet.

    Its all the same contended crap.

    • There might be fibre in the ground that isn’t lit up, and that is because, although the fibre is “free”, the equipment to plug into it to light it up isn’t.

      • There is a massive amount of lit up fibre that could easily be upgraded to 100gbps or even 1tbps.

        The fact is that the telcos aren’t going to do that because it’d destroy revenue that they earn on Wholesale IP, which is already manipulated.

        The problem with the internet and wholesale bandwidth is that at one point we lived in an age of scarcity, where indeed it did cost money and large amounts to provision and maintain these networks, that ran on copper / microwave and other layer 1’s that were suceptible to faults and significant costs.

        With the advent of fibre and high end SDH boxes and routers the life span of telco equipment has improved significantly, the costs have dramatically collapsed (look at the huge war between CISCO and the OEM’s). At the sametime the capability of fibre loops, even single mode fibre, has improved massively.

        The thing is that the telcos have purposely not upgraded their networks, only when they’ve been forced to. They’ve artificially constrained the supply in order to keep the price artificially high.

        Seriously look at Aarnet and SKA and the fact that they’re building an international network capable of transmitting 8tbps (to be upgraded to even higher rates as the SKA goes into phase 2/3).

        And the cost of such a network is only in the tens of millions, and most of that is for the physical laying of cable. Its ridiculous to think that our urban fibre loops couldn’t be upgraded to terabit rates. After the initial capital costs were recovered, within 1-2 years – everyone could have unlimited 1:1 domestic internet.

        But you know can’t have that could we, or else that would destroy the corporate telco market and their ridiculous prices.

        • As a uni network admin who deals with AARNET regularly, +1 to this.

          Our connection at work is 10gbps, dual redundant, its amazing, and its done on a non profit basis, so its pretty damn cost effective.

          Our students get pretty decent caps and free data at night, they love it, i doubt most of them remember what congestion looks like.

          Props to all the AARNET staff for the work they do.

  9. iiNet have gone to sh1t since the buyout, they don’t return service calls or emails…have to go to the ombudsman to get any action…will have to go again as the congestion after about 4pm often slows the net down to the point where pages timeout

      • That’s because their staff are leaving faster than they can fill the positions. I hear that the culture at Internode -> iiNet has gone downhill by miles in the last year or two.

  10. So what company did the iinet crew go to ? They used to be very helpful many years ago . Might have to shop around , while i wait for late 2017 and maybe get FTTP instead of the PMG copper 80+yrs network in my area . My video’s now shaking shuttering and deadly blue ring of “Waiting ” to load 1 min clip in hd ?

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