UK Broadband ISPs Brace for Free MS Windows 10 Internet Data Hog - ISPreview UK
On 29th July Microsoft will release its new Windows 10 operating system software, which is being offered as a free upgrade to millions of existing Windows customers around the world. But broadband ISPs are nervous about the impact that so many subscribers downloading the 3GB+ (GigaByte) update could have on their networks.

The weekly “Patch Tuesday” phenomenon (technically it’s Patch Wednesday for many in the UK) is by now quite well understood by most of the United Kingdom’s broadband providers, which often lay on additional network capacity when Windows PC owners across the country apply the latest security updates, fixes and other features to Microsoft’s OS.

But every once in a while the Patch Tuesday update event will be particularly big and that can sometimes slow the domestic Internet performance of even the most well prepared providers, which results in customers suffering a slower service and sometimes even creates issues with higher than normal network latency.

At this point it’s important to remember that domestic grade broadband is a “Best Efforts” service, which is only priced at an affordable level because ISPs share their capacity between many subscribers (if everybody had uncontended connections then you’d pay a lot more). Experiences will of course vary between different providers and locations.

In that sense the release of Windows 10 threatens to be like the worst sort of Patch Tuesday event imaginable, although nobody is quite sure what sort of impact it will actually have because of the uncertain way in which Microsoft will release it.

Never the less some ISPs, such as TalkTalk, inform us that they’re preparing for a potentially huge spike in usage. BT and Sky Broadband are also gearing up and we are awaiting a reply from Virgin Media, but it’s likely their response will be the same.

A BT spokesperson told

We are working with Microsoft to ensure the our network will support the launch of Windows 10 without impacting service to our customers.”
A Sky Spokesperson added:

We are committed to ensuring all Sky Broadband customers get the best experience, whether that’s downloading latest software updates from Microsoft or simply surfing the web like any given day. We hope our customers enjoy the new software when it arrives.”
Privately Sky also said that they viewed this as a critical issue and warned how the level of traffic will probably remain quite high for several days, although like the others they’re also doing what they can to ensure that the service they deliver remains of a good quality. In any case Sky believes their network is tough enough to handle it all.

The question of how big this data deluge will be, and thus what impact it will have, depends upon Microsoft’s approach to deployment. Patch Tuesday events can range in size from a handful of MegaBytes and rise all the way up into the high hundreds, although at 3GB the Windows 10 update looks set to be well above the norm.

Microsoft has so far said that they’ll release the new software across 190 countries, although it will be conducted in a phased approach so as not to overwhelm their own network(s) and hopefully those of the ISPs too. But the software giant is coy with any meaningful details.

Microsoft Statement

Starting on July 29, we will start rolling out Windows 10 to our Windows Insiders. From there, we will start notifying reserved systems in waves, slowly scaling up after July 29th. Each day of the roll-out, we will listen, learn and update the experience for all Windows 10 users.

If you reserved your copy of Windows 10, we will notify you once our compatibility work confirms you will have a great experience, and Windows 10 has been downloaded on your system
What is “slowly scaling up” in figures? How many days, weeks or months will it take? Key details are clearly absent, which ISPs need in order to plan their strategy for coping with any above average demands upon their networks.

But even if ISPs assume the worst case scenario then that doesn’t mean to say consumers on slower connections won’t still suffer. On a 2Mbps connection a 3GB download will take around 3:30hr to 3:50hr to complete, assuming very little overhead and no capacity problems at the ISP. But during that time the performance of other services may suffer.

Thankfully those with a full “superfast” speed (24Mbps) would only need a little under 20 minutes, which is much less of a problem, and if you happen to have a Gigabit (1000Mbps) service then it’ll be done before you can boil a kettle (you lucky.. lucky.. people).

But again, this all rather assumes that the ISPs can cope and that Microsoft actually does get windows 10 out on 29th as planned (they probably will). Plus the download could also be more than 3GB, possibly closer to 4GB. At least so far the ISPs appear to be confident that all will be well.