Active Queue Management: Keep Web Traffic Flowing and Improve QoE

Active Queue Management blog header

by | January 13, 2022 | Networking, Support Team

Active Queue Management

Are you receiving support calls about multiple devices slowing the internet down in the home? Active Queue Management (AQM) protects internet-connected devices from each other to keep traffic flowing, ensure a good quality of experience for subscribers, and generate fewer support tickets for your ISP!

Every now and then, support techs are confronted with those four simple words that no ISP wants to hear from a subscriber: “My internet is slow.”

The root cause of a slow internet experience can be any number of things, from outdated hardware to poor weather. One increasingly likely cause, however, is the sheer number of internet-connected devices within a subscriber’s home.

Think of it like this: when Mom is on a Zoom call, Dad is streaming a video on YouTube, and Kid #1 is watching Netflix while Kid #2 is downloading the latest Fortnite update on their Xbox, that family is asking a lot from their internet plan.

In fact, their devices are competing with each other for bandwidth. This can lead to congestion, buffering, and a frustrated call to their ISP about slow or unreliable internet. Even worse, the family might just accept the situation for a while, growing increasingly frustrated before switching providers.

Woman impatiently waiting for computer upgrade

The COVID Effect

A poor internet experience hurts both the subscriber and the provider. The pandemic has amplified this, with household members more likely to be at home and online at the same time. Or think of an apartment building, which might have hundreds, even thousands, of devices using WiFi in the same area. These can slow each other down through sheer congestion of the available airwaves.

Online gaming, in particular, has increased in popularity during COVID, and not just for kids and teens. As noted by Think With Google, searches for “best online games” at the start of the pandemic grew 100% from the previous year. There was also 20x growth in searches for “online games to play with friends” during the same period. Epic Games—the makers of Fortnite—reported that 350 million users spent 3.3 billion hours playing the online game monthly. That’s a lot of bandwidth!

With this in mind, how can we “protect” devices from each other within the home? Doing so can improve subscriber QoE and allow providers to save on support and retain more customers. And let’s not forget parents that need some respite from kids complaining loudly about “laggy” games! Let’s look at Active Queue Management, a traffic shaping technique that holds the solution to this growing problem.

Person playing Fortnite on tablet

What is Active Queue Management?

According to our handy Fixed Wireless Glossary, AQM is a traffic shaping method “that allows WISPs to easily manage bandwidth limits while improving the Quality of Experience (QoE) for their subscribers.” AQM does this by proactively dropping packets before buffers become full. This allows routers to absorb traffic bursts while keeping queue sizes small. It also decreases latency, eases congestion, and improves the experience for subscribers, even when using multiple devices concurrently.

AQM uses the FQ-CoDel algorithm to reduce network gridlock caused by multiple high-bandwidth sources, like downloading large online game updates. This in turn means that the internet no longer “feels slow” for subscribers, even in heavy usage conditions. FQ-CoDel is an open-source tool that, in our case, Preseem has adapted specifically for local and regional internet providers. Unlike typical deep packet inspection (DPI) solutions, FQ-CoDel doesn’t have “nerd knob” functionality that only highly experienced experts can use.

Instead, FQ-Codel “just works” and shapes traffic in a simple, elegant way. This can be used in combination with Quality of Experience (QoE) monitoring to provide effective analysis and communication on network performance.

Picture of busy intersection

How AQM Can Help

Imagine a typical network like a four-way intersection. During peak or rush hour periods, the number of vehicles on the road increases. As a result, lineups at each traffic light or stop sign become longer as everyone has to wait their turn. This leads to slower speeds, longer waits, and driver (subscriber) frustration.

In our example from above, the kid downloading a new Fortnite update on their Xbox can make other household members feel like they’re stuck behind a convoy of tractor-trailers at a four-way stop. Sure, you’ll be moving forward intermittently, but it can feel like it’s taking forever to get to the front. Not only that, you can’t really see what’s going on.

Traffic shaping using Active Queue Management, however, is more like a roundabout that keeps traffic (including those tractor-trailers) flowing smoothly, even during rush hour. As a result, though each vehicle won’t be traveling as fast as it can possibly go when the road is empty, the journey will still feel much faster than those stuck at a slow-moving four-way intersection.

Routers that use simple, non-AQM techniques allow heavy applications (such as system upgrades) to negatively impact other users’ QoE. Conversely, AQM can be used to enforce subscriber plan limits and manage high-bandwidth applications while improving subscriber QoE. This allows interactive flows like online gaming to get through smoothly, without being affected by bulk flows like large downloads.

Person using phone while on video conference call

Use AQM to Grow Your Business

As with any business, the main priority for ISPs should be to ensure that their customers have a great experience with their product or service. After all, happy customers don’t leave. Not only that, they’re more likely to post positive reviews online and tell their friends and family all about the great service they’ve received. This can lead to an improved reputation, more retained revenue, and warm referrals that can help grow your company.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Preseem and its use of AQM can help improve the quality of experience for your subscribers and improve the services you provide, don’t be shy! Contact us to book a demo, start your 30-day free trial, and see the impact of AQM in action on your network.

Subscribe to the Preseem Blog Newsletter

Stay in-the-know and get fresh content delivered to your inbox once a month.