Network management is commonly used by service providers to optimise the use of finite network resources in delivering services to their customers. It ensures that the vast majority of end-users receive service levels that are commensurate with the plans they have subscribed to. Network management is non-intrusive, content-agnostic, and is independent of the nature of the content being delivered.
The evolving Internet environment can unexpectedly change usage patterns and can cause network congestion that, in turn, adversely affects the end-user experience. Based on the identification of application types, and associated usage patterns, network management and traffic optimisation ensure that all users will have a fair opportunity to use the service in a manner that maximises their own utility. Network management is especially important during periods of peak usage and under abnormal conditions (such as public emergencies, link outages, etc).
The majority of MaxMobile end-users are using the Internet for web-surfing, video-streaming, emailing, Voice-over-IP and instant messaging. However, our network traffic analysis indicates that a significant proportion of Internet traffic over the MaxMobile network is generated by peer-to-peer related applications and video-streaming from a relatively small number of end-users. This usage places disproportionate demands on network resources, and can cause congestion that degrades the Internet experience of all end-users.
StarHub Mobile has been working with our technology partners to mitigate the heavy burden caused by the volume of P2P traffic and video-streaming on the MaxMobile network. To ensure latency-sensitive applications used by other majority of end users are not severely affected, especially during peak periods, we have implemented traffic shaping to optimise the overall efficiency of the network.
Traffic shaping is a network deployment technique to provide control over the volume of traffic being sent into the network, either by specifying a period of time or a maximum rate at which the traffic is sent. Traffic shaping is similar to traffic policing, but instead of dropping packets that exceed the bit rate limit, the packets are queued and metered out so as not to exceed the bit rate limit. In short, traffic shaping is achieved by delaying some packets but not dropping them.
StarHub Mobile employs traffic shaping policy, mainly by de-prioritising P2P and video-streaming once particular traffic thresholds are met. It is important to note that traffic shaping, as deployed in our network, does not examine end-users’ content. It only identifies the type of traffic (such as http, ftp, SMTP, P2P etc). The traffic shaping function ensures that applications used by other majority of the end-users will have a more equitable share of bandwidth. As a result of traffic shaping, the majority of StarHub Mobile customers enjoy a better and more consistent surfing experience.
From the viewpoint of a typical MaxMobile end-user, traffic shaping greatly improves their Internet experience. For example, end-users who perform normal web-surfing and video-streaming during peak hours will be allocated additional bandwidth, relative to an environment without traffic shaping. As for other end-users, such as the P2P end-users, their experience will vary, as P2P file sharing applications are subject to many factors (such as the number of peer nodes, the location, availability, computing power and speed of peers, interconnecting networks between peers, size and numbers of shared files, duration of downloads). Hence, it is difficult to ascertain what the exact impact of traffic shaping will be on this group of users, as their experience will vary considerably among end-users.
In summary, our traffic shaping implementation ensures fair and consistent traffic utilisation across the broadest base of users and applications. Traffic shaping is applied as part of our overall network management implementation to prevent service deterioration and to enhance the end-user experience.