What is web traffic management?

Web traffic management is essentially a way for internet service providers to make sure that their service runs smoothly during peak times. This means that certain online activities are affected in order to for all customers of that provider to have some access. Peak times generally range from around 6pm to 11pm on weekdays - the time when most users are online.

Larger online activities such as downloading and sharing are often slowed down to make way for smaller activities like streaming, online gaming and video calls. This doesn’t just affect online activities on your computer or games console, it also changes the way you use your phone during peak times.

How does it affect mobile phones?

Web traffic management affects your phone in a number of ways. Many of the tasks you perform with your phone happen over the web, so using it in peak times will see it lumped in with your other devices. This means that if you use your phone for streaming, downloading, web browsing or emails, you could see it affected.

As well as using your phone with WiFi, web traffic management also affects 4G mobile broadband services, with phone providers like Vodafone and EE managing traffic during peak times on their 4G. Whilst this may not affect you much if you don’t heavily use 4G, it is something to consider when using your phone during peak times. 

Fair usage policy - data, texts and minutes

Fair usage policy works with web traffic management to ensure that everyone gets a fair share of broadband bandwidth. Policies such as this mean that every customer gets enough bandwidth to get make the internet usable, so light users aren’t punished by heavy usage.

Fair usage is not only applied in terms of data; some providers will have a fair usage policy for texts and minutes as well. They will use the term 'unlimited', but there will in fact be some kind of maximum in place. It could, for example, be 3000 texts, with the provider arguing that 3000 should be enough for any texter. In order to breach that number you'd need to send around 100 texts a day throughout the month.

If your network provider does have a fair usage policy for texts and minutes, then you'll probably have to pay the standard rate for anything over the stated maximum. You should be able to get the exact details from your provider, either through contacting them or looking into your terms and conditions.  

How to know if you’re affected

Not all broadband or mobile broadband providers feature web traffic management, with big names like Sky, BT and TalkTalk opting out. With the rise of high-speed fibre broadband packages, less and less broadband users will find themselves affected by traffic management.