Navigo is declaring war on World of Warcraft.
The online game played globally by more than six million people is believed to be the source of speed problems with the recently launched wireless internet network in Whitehorse.
A handful of customers accessing the ’net through Navigo’s Haeckel Hill transmitter — others are located on Grey Mountain and in the downtown core — have been hosting World of Warcraft gamers, and devouring about 80 per cent of the transmitter’s bandwidth.
“We’ve got some customers that we’re noticing were consuming up to 20 gigabytes (of bandwidth) per day,” said the company’s marketing development manager Shabbir Lasani on Wednesday.
“That’s not typical of a regular consumer.”
It gets worse: the owners of the computers providing gamers with ‘net bandwidth to Warcraft’s virtual world of Azeroth may not even know their computers are being used.
“What we’re seeing is that, because we offer high bandwidth, specific users’ computers are being treated as servers, to act as a virtual server for the game,” said Lasani. “So, it’s by default selecting Navigo.
“It’s common in the internet service provider world that customers do this, sometimes unknowingly,” he said.
Navigo is not investigating any single customer following the discovery, and no customer is in breach of policies.
But Navigo officials have spoken with customers who, they believe, have been hosting the gamers through their computers, knowingly or not.
Navigo’s big sell, when it launched in September, was big bandwidth, unlimited downloads, and only a bit of “shaping” used to ensure people checking their email wouldn’t have a slow connection while some guy in Copper Ridge downloaded the entire library of Star Trek.
But Navigo and other high-speed internet companies are learning speed and freedom on the ‘net attracts bandwidth-hungry World of Warcraft gamers to surreptitiously set up virtual servers.
The virtual servers are called WoW networks in tech circles, and act like peer-to-peer network such as Limewire or Kazaa.
But WoW networks are very good at avoiding limitations companies, like Navigo, put on peer-to-peer networks and the bandwidth they can consume.
Navigo is refining its policies and trying to make its network’s software smarter, so it can identify WoW networks and prevent them from ruining the internet party for everybody else, said Lasani.
“That’s something our engineers are working on. This is one of our priorities right now. Basically it’s a learning process.”
But like anything with the internet, the Navigo speed story gets a bit more complicated.
The Navigo modem is ‘intelligent’ and looks for the strongest signal for ‘net access. Many houses in Whitehorse can receive a signal from several of the company’s transmitters, but use the one closest to them to get the best speeds.
Riverdale customers, then, should logically be receiving internet signals from a transmitter located nearby on Grey Mountain.
But they’re often not, said Lasani.
“Because of the geography and the cliffs there, Riverdale’s been an issue, even for cellular phone providers,” he said. “A lot of the folks in Riverdale are being serviced by the Haeckel Hill site.”
And that Haeckel Hill site, remember, has been seeing 80 per cent of its bandwidth eaten up by gamers.
Two transmitter towers were put up on Grey Mountain in “logical spots,” said Lasani.
But: “It doesn’t look like the station at Grey Mountain is effectively servicing Riverdale,” he added.
The company is moving its transmitters on the mountain to different locations this week, said Lasani.
Still, no customers have cancelled their Navigo service due to speed concerns, he added.
During its public launch in late December, (the system was online since September but bugs were being worked out, said officials) the company touted its top-line service as being able to download at three megabytes per second.
That promise is still valid, said Lasani.
“It’s burstable. I’m getting download speeds as high as six megs. It all depends on where you are.”
And so the bugs will continue to be identified and destroyed, he said.
“It’s a lot of new stuff. The good news is that 99 per cent of our customers are happy with their service,” said Lasani.
“Hopefully by the end of this week, we’ll have these issues resolved.”