Telekom Malaysia (TM) recently came under fire from frustrated Streamyx subscribers who alleged that the telecommunications giant had begun implementing a “hard cap” on their broadband accounts, specifically in relation to international traffic in order to curb P2P heavy bandwidth utilisation. This cap was allegedly applied by TM across the board, i.e. both low usage and high usage users are affected and irrespective of type of traffic (HTTP/HTTPS/FTP/P2P are all affected) so long as they are international.
A thread started by the owner of the popular VPN service, BolehVPN, in the Lowyat.net forum has grown to 109 pages, with subscriber after subscriber posting their bandwidth speed test results evidencing this cap.
TM apparently has taken cognizance of these complaints and its Vice President of Corporate Communications, Izlyn Ramli, released an official response:
Telekom Malaysia Bhd ™ wishes to clarify on our Fair Usage Policy (FUP) and address several comments in the blogosphere on allegations of a ‘hard cap’ for international bandwidth being enforced by TM.
Firstly, we apologise for the inconvenience that our customers are currently facing on our internet services.
We would like to assure all our customers that it is not, in any way TM’s intention to enforce any ‘hard caps’ on our customers.
As a matter of principle, however, TM needs to abide by a FUP to ensure that the network caters to all customers in a fair manner, and this has been in place for a few years for Streamyx which is a contended, best effort service. This means the Streamyx network is catered to be shared by everybody at any point in time to ensure everybody gets a “fair share” of the bandwidth. Currently UniFi is not affected, as it is a new premium service.
The Streamyx “Fair Usage Policy” is available on our website (http://www.streamyx.com/customer_care/customer_care.php?id=customer_care_fair_usage_policy) and it basically describes the list of specific heavy usage activities (like P2P and gaming) that will be managed during peak periods.
As you all know, this kind of bandwidth management or FUP is a global and common telco and celco industry practice. It is already in place in Malaysia amongst the mobile broadband players and aimed at making sure our broadband service is fast and reliable whenever in use. It is designed to benefit all users, especially normal or non-heavy users during peak periods, so that all can enjoy higher and fair browsing and surfing speed.
In general, TM’s FUP and implementation is aimed at providing an optimum internet experience to all Streamyx customers by rationalising the internet speed during peak periods (3pm – 1am).
Of late, our traffic profiles are changing quite rapidly, and we are noticing that network congestion can hit different parts of the country at different times of the day or week. When congestion hits, depending on the usage patterns, customers subscribing to the same package but generating different traffic patterns may experience different levels of service performance.
In an effort to ensure a fair distribution of resources amongst all customers at all times, whenever congestion occurs, TM’s network is able to calculate how many users are active at any given time and allocate dynamically the resources across all customers with active sessions.
In rare cases of heavy congestion, we ensure that no customers may get below a minimum threshold of international bandwidth, but there is no ‘ceiling’ to the bandwidth each customer can get.
The problems some customer are experiencing now may have stemmed post a successful pilot of a new traffic management model we ran a few months before, following which we went nationwide about 3 weeks ago. Clearly there is room for improvement and we are working hard to resolve this.
As dynamic allocation of bandwidth requires some specific settings that need to be fine tuned area by area, we elicit and welcome feedback on the experience in different parts of the country at different times of the day. We have set up a special email account where you can send your readings for our review: firstname.lastname@example.org effective 1 December 2010.
From our analysis, the current traffic patterns are, for most part, in line with our expectations on traffic management, and the speeds being delivered should suffice for a smooth internet experience.
Where the internet experience falls short, we will further investigate both individual cases and the service in its entirety to address specific concerns that they may be facing, and will respond to these customers directly.
Rest assured, TM takes note of all customer feedback to continuously ensure improved customer experience end-to-end.
From a market communications perspective, the FUP awareness campaign is already ongoing and we will further clarify as to the rules we are implementing – and why.
In fact, a bloggers briefing has already been scheduled for 17 December post our engagement with LYN and Kambingz earlier. About 40-50 selected bloggers will be invited to represent the wider blogger community to keep them abreast with our efforts to improve service delivery and customer experience overall, and to seek constructive feedback on these efforts. We hope to address, or at least start to address many concerns at this forum.
We thank you for your continuous feedback and ask for your kind understanding and patience as we work to deliver on our commitment to service quality and overall customer experience.
TELEKOM MALAYSIA BHD
In a nutshell, the slow international traffic experienced by Streamyx subscribers was caused by a new bandwidth management system coined by TM as FUP (Fair Usage Policy) which was deployed about 3 weeks ago to regulate traffic during peak hours; i.e. 3pm-1am. The system was supposed to assist in equally distributing the available bandwidth to all users, especially during peak hours, but instead of doing that, it is throttling everyone on a consistent and widespread basis.
Dato’ Sri Zamzamzairani Mohd Isa, CEO of TM also appeared on BFM radio this morning to address this issue. While defending the need for the FUP, Dato’ Zam said that TM will temporarily halt the implementation of the FUP pending review. He mentioned:
“We will find a way out immediately, today we are looking at some parameters that will allow the equilibrium of usage. If it’s still a challenge in the next 1-2 days, I’m going to pull that out first and then we will relook, get feedback from our users and see how we can do this better.”
You can listen to the full interview here.
Our latest check at the current postings in the aforementioned Lowyat forum thread reveals that the removal of the FUP cap is indeed in progress, with many subscribers reporting that their international bandwidth speed is back to normal.
It remains to be seen if TM will reinstate the FUP in the near future. If they do decide to do so, it would need to be properly regulated rather than just arbitrarily capping subscribers’ speed regardless of their usage. But most importantly, TM should inform its subscribers publicly through all available channels rather than implementing a system which would affect them without their knowledge. This is necessary in order to avoid the backlash like the one they have just faced.
UPDATE: 2nd December 2010
A visit to the LYN thread above showed that the cap is still being applied despite some relaxation thereof yesterday evening. This writer’s 4MB Streamyx line was also severely capped the whole of yesterday evening (average download speed was less than what one would expect from a 1MB line) and normal speed only returned at about 7am this morning. Hopefully Dato’ Zam keeps his word and pulls out the system in the next couple of days as it is obviously creating a plethora of problems for both individual and business users.