Internet providers caught inflating speed test results


As TestMy can now run speed tests on port 8080, I contacted my work colleague again to try some further tests. The following are the test results, HTTP on the left and port 8080 on the right:


Pulse8 speed test over http Pulse8 speed test over port 8080

Straightaway, it’s pretty obvious that the port 8080 test is performing better than the plain HTTP based test. So then I asked him by e-mail to run a multithread test with a fixed 50MB block size and to repeat the multithread test by accessing the website over port 8080. He ran these with his laptop connected directly to his router with an Ethernet cable. By using the same 50MB block size and test server, this is the equivalent to testing the maximum speed of two cars on the same test strip over the same distance.

HTTP vs port 8080 multithread speed test:


Pulse8 multithread test over http Pulse8 multithread test over port 8080

He ran the regular HTTP multithread test a handful of times and not one test result exceeded 8Mbps. So it is obvious that either his ISP or the Talktalk network it resells has given port 8080 special treatment. As Ookla’s speed test service operates over port 8080, it is pretty clear how it was able to deliver test results that were not possible to achieve with real-world web usage such as downloading large files. In fact, this inflated 38Mbps figure turned out to be the ISP’s advertised speed, which as we can see can only be achieved under specific test conditions, just like the VW emissions test scandal.

After discussing this with the Myce staff, our founder Jan Willem discovered something similar with his ISP, Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands. The following is the ordinary HTTP test on the left and port 8080 on the right. Unlike my UK work colleague, this was not even a multithreaded test:

Ziggo speed test over http
Ziggo speed test over port 8080

Note: Further testing by the Dutch website indicates that Ziggo is not guilty on prioritizing port 8080. While our results consistently indicate a difference in bandwidth between port 80 and port 8080, readers also report they don’t see similar results. Therefore the below test my not be representative. We’ve kept the graphs below to show the results expected from an ISP behaving badly, which in case Ziggo likely isn’t.

In fact, the only way to take advantage of that throughput is to find a way of getting it to come in over port 8080, which obviously requires the server to accept connections on port 8080. As I mentioned in the introduction, very little real world traffic is carried over port 8080, making this additional throughput practically useless to the user other than to inflate their speed test results.

Let’s head to the next page where we take a look at how an ISP should behave…