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Gamers Eating Up ISP Bandwidth

Halo II quadruples Microsoft Xbox Live traffic. Can YOUR ISP handle it?

The rising popularity of online gaming, and subsequent increase in bandwidth demands, may pose challenges to ISPs who want to keep gaming subscribers by providing high Quality of Service (QoS) and low latency, says broadband traffic measurement specialist Sandvine.

Sandvine claims that the November 9 launch of Microsoft's popular Halo II for Xbox has led to a quadrupling of Microsoft Xbox Live traffic on ISP networks, and warns that the growing traffic may be a harbinger of things to come for ISPs.

Online games like Halo II require low network latency so that the games play smoothly without "jitters." Gamers that experience "jitters" may be more likely to switch ISPs until they find one that provides a better gaming experience, Sandvine notes.

Sandvine claims that current broadband networks have a difficult time providing premium services such as QoS because they do not have intelligence in the layer 7 or data plane. The company further says that service providers cannot meter, bundle, individually charge or guarantee QoS for specific applications because they cannot adequately identify or control the evolving myriad of broadband traffic types. This affects gaming traffic, as well as other popular broadband applications like VoIP, streaming media and peer-to-peer file sharing, according to the company.

"The explosion in X-Box Live traffic attributed to Halo II should be seen as a clarion call," Marc Morin, co-founder and chief technology officer of Sandvine Incorporated said in a statement. "ISPs need to enhance the broadband experience for these high-end users by prioritizing or reserving bandwidth for games and other kinds of latency-sensitive and feature-rich applications."

"In the competitive broadband environment, operators need to differentiate the way they offer access to services like live-play gaming," Lindsay Schroth, senior analyst, broadband access technologies with The Yankee Group, added. "We expect ISPs will look increasingly to intelligent bandwidth management products as a means of analyzing and distinguishing applications on a per-subscriber basis, creating a way to prioritize or even guarantee their performance."

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