Tuesday, 05 June 2018 07:41

Morrow contradicts NBN Co, says gamers hogging bandwidth

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Gamers are taking up too much bandwidth, according to the NBN Co chief. Gamers are taking up too much bandwidth, according to the NBN Co chief. Pixabay

The chief of NBN Co, the company rolling out Australia's national broadband network, has blamed gamers for congestion at peak times on the fixed wireless network and hinted that they may be subject to slower speeds to fix the problem.

Chief executive Bill Morrow told a parliamentary hearing in Sydney on Monday afternoon that any heavy users who would be targeted by a fair use policy were "gamers predominantly", the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

But this is at variance with what the NBN Co itself published in December 2016. In a blog post about the amount of data used by gamers, the company wrote: "Believe it or not, some of the biggest online games use very little data while you’re playing compared to streaming HD video or even high-fidelity audio.

"Where streaming 4K video can use as much as 7 gigabytes (GB) per hour and high-quality audio streaming gets up to around 125 megabytes (MB) per hour, (but usually sits at around half that) certain online games use as little as 10MB per hour."

On Monday, Morrow said: "While people are gaming it is a high bandwidth requirement that is a steady streaming process.

"This is where you can do things, to where you can traffic shape — where you say, 'no, no, no, we can only offer you service when you're not impacting somebody else'."

But he also said the NBN Co did not know about the behaviour of end users to be sure that they were gamers, referring instead to "people who do have familiarity with it".

When he was told by Labor regional communications spokesperson Stephen Jones that he had painted gamers as a problem, Morrow then denied this.

"I said there were super users out there consuming terabytes of data and the question is should we actually groom those down? It's a consideration," Morrow responded.

Labor's Shadow Communications Minister Michelle Rowland and Jones jointly described Morrow's singling out of gamers as "both misguided and disappointing".

"It beggars belief that Australians are being categorised and criticised for using the Internet," they said in a statement, pointing also to the NBN Co's own statements on gaming which iTWire has already mentioned above.

"This ill-judged assertion was made despite the Cisco Visual Network Index forecasting that online gaming would only account for 2.9% consumer traffic in 2018, up from 2.4% in 2017."

Rowland and Jones said the on-and-off messaging highlighted "a concerning pattern of hype and under-delivery by the public relations arm of the company, which for too long has placed spin above substance at the taxpayers’ expense".

"Regional Australians want NBN Co to focus on configuring its network to deliver the best possible experience," they said.

"Making promises to deliver a 100 Mbps upgrade path — then 'killing it' — and now taking a swipe at online gamers for simply using the internet, is a misguided strategy to achieve this objective."

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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