A Study of Traffic Management Detection Methods & Tools

Ofcom has just published research from Predictable Network Solutions Ltd on the technical feasibility of detecting broadband "neutrality violations". We applied a rigorous scientific framework in order to independently evaluate the efficacy of existing traffic management detection (TMD) techniques, and TMD in general.

The specific issues of TMD are just one part of the general issue of analysing interactions between components and players in digital supply chains, which we are uniquely equipped to resolve. As such, this framework can be applied to the quantitative analysis of wider broadband policy issues, enabling better-informed management and policy decisions. Whilst this is the first time this framework has been applied to inform national policy, it has been successfully used for over a decade to solve many large scale practical problems.

The DOI of this report is DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.3128.3046. To download a copy click here. To watch a webinar outlining the key points, click here or here for the slides only, and to find out more, get in touch.

Ofcom and PNSol

As the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom has the statutory duty "to further the interests of citizens in relation to communications matters; and to further the interests of consumers in relevant markets, where appropriate by promoting competition". As a forward-looking body tasked with safeguarding the consumer citizen, they have been concerned about the the efficacy of traffic management detection (TMD) to assure a transparent broadband market. To this end, they commissioned a report from Predictable Network Solutions Ltd (PNSol), the world's only ex-ante network performance engineers.

In order to provide sound answers to their questions, PNSol went to the mathematical roots of broadband, which are in the stochastic nature of packet-based statistical multiplexing. PNSol applied this mathematical reasoning to the generic traffic management issues of concern to Ofcom; then the particular nature of the UK market; finally addressing the specific issues of TMD. The findings challenge many widespread assumptions that underly the tools, public policy, and general discourse on TMD.

The PNSol thinking process that exposed these assumptions and enabled their re-examination is a generic framework that relates delivered network performance to application performance, in a formal and verifiable way. The approach also permits the analysis of the interaction of all the elements in any digital supply chain. This latter benefit is of particular relevance in the UK, which has an unusually rich broadband market structure.

Wider implications

While this report is technically focussed on the specific issue of traffic management detection in broadband, it also outlines a wider generic quantitative and qualitative means to reason about broadband policy issues, and thorny questions surrounding broadband delivery, such as its fairness, fitness-for-purpose and sustainability. The framework can be applied to determine the validity of many approaches and pronouncements offered in an international context.

Although this is the first time this framework has been used in a regulatory context, PNSol has been using it for over 10 years to address issues that relate to broadband quality and supply chain management on behalf of network operators, as well as in more exotic examples of particle physics experiments and military systems design.

If you are working with a challenging issue of network performance or cost that have resisted resolution, then we invite you to get in touch. We would be glad to discuss how the framework can be applied to your business problems. We are also keen to discuss the report's implications with regulators beyond the UK.