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Internet Service Quality Measured from Thousands of Locations

Daniel Karrenberg

RIPE Atlas probes help measure quality of Internet services.RIPE Atlas, the new active measurements network maintained by the RIPE NCC, gives you a way to easily measure the quality of your Internet services. RIPE Atlas is designed in such a way that it can collect data for analysis from a great number of locations on the Internet. The actual measurement devices, or "probes", are so small that they can be easily deployed in a home environment.

These Atlas probes are distributed free of charge all over the planet. Currently, over 380 probes are deployed worldwide. This means that the Internet community itself runs the network's vantage points.

With all these measurement devices plugged in to so many different networks worldwide, we can already see some interesting results.

The map below shows the round trip time (RTT) for packets sent from probes to the destination (the destination in this case is K-root, the root server operated by the RIPE NCC). Each triangle represents one probe. The colour of the triangle indicates the RTT.

High value RTTs can be caused by various things:

Some networks are connected to the Internet with dial-up connections, or even by satellite, which naturally results in a high RTT. Another reason for a red triangle could be network congestion, which increases the RTT from the probe to the root server. In some cases, it could also be that the probe tries to reach an instance of K-root that is far away instead of the one that is closest to the probe.

The image below is showing a bigger part of the world map. You can see that Atlas probes located far away from K-root instances have a higher RTT and those that are close to an anycast instance of K-root show a shorter RTT. For example, the Atlas probe in Tanzania is represented by a green triangle, because an anycast instance is located in the region.

Having measurement data presented like this makes it easier for network operators and end users to detect configuration errors or to make conscious decisions about changing their network configurations in order to achieve better results (i.e., lower RTT values). Please note that the devices do not measure broadband speed.

For more information, please read the background article on RIPE Labs: RIPE Atlas — First Results.

By Daniel Karrenberg, Chief Scientist at the RIPE NCC
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