TalkTalk & AOL

Carphone Warehouse, one of the pioneers of the so-called “free broadband” movement and owner of TalkTalk, was certainly guilty of expanding too quickly in its early days, when customers were left dangling with slow or unreliable connections for months on end. Since then matters have improved, but has TalkTalk’s continued expansion – and the acquisition of AOL – caused any further problems?

“We do not run a congested network, therefore customers should not see a change in performance at our end at different times of day,” a Carphone Warehouse spokesman told PC Pro. “The time it takes to download a large file is really a function of how busy the internet is.”

That is, perhaps, a little disingenuous. TalkTalk deserves a pat on the back for openly publishing details of capacity at each of its exchanges at However, this reveals that a small proportion of exchanges are experiencing capacity problems. Goodmayes in London, for example, was at the time of press described as: “Exchange performance OK, but TalkTalk is upgrading the capacity at this exchange as part of its continuing improvement programme. Work is scheduled to be completed by 25/05/2009.” Others claimed to be completely out of capacity, to the point where TalkTalk was refusing to accept new customers at the exchange.

The Exchange Checker should therefore be the first port of call for any TalkTalk customer who isn’t getting the speed they expect. The company claims it will increase backhaul exchange capacity tenfold over the next 18 months, which is good news for those suffering from sluggish performance.

TalkTalk and AOL also openly admit to traffic management. “We manage the amount of P2P in the network according to overall network capacity,” our man at Carphone Warehouse told us. “If it’s quiet then we won’t reduce P2P. However, at peak times, in order to safeguard the experience of the majority of our customers, we may reduce the bandwidth afforded to P2P traffic.” However, the company’s own financial report suggests the P2P clampdown is reasonably strict. “P2P was approximately 26% of LLU and 20% of IPS [BT IP Stream] peak-time traffic prior to implementation of traffic shaping – now it is 4% for both combined,” the 2008 report claims.

P2P fans would therefore be well advised to steer clear of downloading content during peak hours, or run the risk of watching their download speeds slow to a crawl. BBC iPlayer addicts will be relieved that the new Adobe AIR powered versions of the download manager (downloadable from downloads shows directly from the BBC servers as HTTP traffic, rather than the P2P software that was used previously.

TalkTalk is also reasonably strict with customers who go over their download cap, which is set at 40GB. From June, customers who go over their limit will be charged an extra £5 per month, although as’s Andrew Ferguson points out, customers can buy an extra 40GB up front for only £4.

Next: Orange

Back to “Smash your broadband limits

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