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World Cup 2010 and BT ADSL Contention in Central London

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OK, we’re in the worse case scenario here, an ENGLAND match in the most important game of the competition. Above is the company broadband speed test on a line with nothing else going on. Just to clarify this point, this is a DSL line not doing anything.

So, what does this mean? Well, fundamentally BT (and by proxy it’s clients – that is pretty much any ISP)  are unable to actually supply anything like the data rate they propose if we all actually all start using the service simultaneously. Such as during the World Cup for example.

This is the ultimate example of “over selling” – an idea originally devised by the airline industry and a good example of the “tyranny of numbers” whereby you calculate statistical averages for a certain service and then take that as the de facto standard as for what is normal. This is the reason you have to confirm flights on planes – the airline has actually sold more tickets that the plane can hold on the basis that not everyone will turn up. 

There’s a flaw in this plan that doesn’t take Rocket Scientist to work out however. What happens if everyone does actually turn up, or in our case start using all the bandwidth simultaneously?

I think the graph above sums this up. The model collapses and we all start wishing we’d signed up to a contract that had agreements about quality of service included.

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