Ellacoya Networks — which says it is in trials with several MSOs to limit the bandwidth used by peer-to-peer traffic — is pitching this next-generation concept: guaranteed bandwidth service tiers tied to specific content providers, such as legitimate movie-download services.
"MSOs could carve out channels of bandwidth," Ellacoya CEO Ron Sege said. Operators could then approach such downloading services as Movielink or NetMovies and offer guaranteed bandwidth to end users — for a fee.
"It starts to look like the cable-video model, with premium services [like Home Box Office]," Sege said.
Though MSOs might be thinking about such services, the concept could be slightly ahead of its time. But the increasing impact of peer-to-peer traffic on cable plant has already come to pass.
Some 15 percent of all high-speed data users account for 70 percent of the traffic, Sege said. At any one time, 10 to 15 percent of broadband users are engaging in peer-to-peer traffic.
In addition to illegitimate peer-to-peer file swapping, the rise of legitimate movie download services and the proliferation of digital cameras have prompted more activity.
"More and more customers are discovering P2P," he said.
Ellacoya began to target cable operators with its 16000 series switch and bandwidth-limiting software 18 months ago. It first deployed the product in August 2002.
In addition to Eastlink in Canada, Ellacoya has deployed its product with several domestic cable overbuilders and is in trials with several MSOs, Sege said.
"We're targeting the high-speed network," Sege said. "The initial vision was to cut up the bandwidth and sell pieces to enable service tiers. But the first order of business was to manage P2P traffic."
Increasing P2P traffic means "the heaviest users are drowning out other users, and that has a customer-service component to it," Sege said. "The issue is most acute in the upstream."
MSOs can install Ellacoya's switch and software and place bandwidth controls on specific users. The software can control upstream and downstream traffic flows independently. One system, Sege said, tested Ellacoya's system by reducing the overall bandwidth from 100 megabits to 45 megabits and further to 32 megabits.
At that time, Sege said, the system did not experience any customer complaints due to perceived slower service. But after the several-week limit was lifted, P2P traffic shot back up to pre-test levels, indicating a temporary drop in bandwidth wasn't going to curtail P2P traffic.
Sege said MSOs with systems in college towns are looking at Ellacoya's software.