Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Quality of Service and the Role of Governments

The term “quality of service” (QoS) is used to describe and quantify the performance of a system and the services that it avails (with reference to the whole and aspects), and especially from the perspective of the users. With respect to the Internet, this can be understood as a measure of the performance of the network and its services, as it would be experienced by a typical Internet user.

Early on, the Internet was believed to offer a single level of service, wherein all data packets traversing the network were treated with equity. Today, however, some areas of the Internet have been seen to exhibit high levels of congestion and consequently poor quality, while other areas display consistent levels of high quality service. It thus became evident that the Internet may not be offering a single level of service quality after all / anymore. Customers are now beginning to insist more clearly on specifications and definitions for a consistent service quality that they wish to be provided, even as network service providers are seeking ways of meeting such requirements and specifications.

In light of this, modern QoS implementations now reflect an array of various methodologies and technologies that are being applied in order to manage traffic in such a way that reduces packet loss, latency, and jitter as content (which could be voice, video and delay-sensitive data) travels through the network. This sometimes also demands that limited communications resources (such as bandwidth, throughput, etc.) are effectively appropriated in order to ensure that the priority specifications that have been set for different types of content traversing the network are adhered to. Hence, when new applications and services emerge on the network, they are required to provide services that can be quantified and measured in terms of the QoS implementations that have been deployed on the network. For businesses and organizations that provide internet services, this requirement serves to ensure that the services that they offer do meet the network traffic requirements of sensitive corporate applications, while also preventing the degradation of quality, which can be caused by packet loss, delay, and jitter. Service-level Agreements (SLA) between such service providers and their clients help to guarantee a certain agreed (minimum) level of performance quality that provisioned services must meet.

Quantifying Quality of Service
Several considerations that attempt to quantify or measure QoS often do so in light of the following parameters, among others:

  1. Jitters: could result from congestion, drifts in timing specifications, or the re-routing of content in transmission. This is able to degrade the quality of voice and video communication over the network. 
  2. Latency: the time it takes a packet to travel from source to destination is known as latency. In ideal implementations, latency should be as close to zero as possible; or close enough to be negligible in best case implementation. When latency is high, echoes and overlaps could appear in voice communications, as well as delays in video streams. 
  3. Packet Loss: which is often the result of network links becoming congested in such a way that routers and switches begin to drop packets in transmission. This could translate to jitters, high latency / delays, and gaps in real-time applications for voice and video communications. 
  4. Bandwidth: is basically the capacity of a network transmission link to convey a certain amount of content from source to destination within a certain period of time. By reserving, reallocation and managing bandwidth, while also prioritizing applications that require more resources than others, many QoS implementations are able to optimize the quality of network services. 
  5. Mean Opinion Score (MOS): is an aggregated metric that rates the quality of voice transmissions using a five-point scale; where an MOS score of “5” signifies the best quality, while a score of “1” signifies the lowest quality.

Approaches to Implementing QoS
Three widely-applied models have been documented for implementing quality of service in modern networks. They are:

  1. Best Effort. Here, all packets receive equal priority in transmission, with no guarantees of delivery. This approach is often featured in networks that either have no QoS policies configured, or contain infrastructure that do not support QoS. 
  2. Integrated Services (IntServ). This approach features a reservation of bandwidth along specific network transmission paths, which could be appropriated to requesting applications. Implementing this approach requires dedicated network hardware and protocols, and is also limited in scalability due to its resource intensiveness. 
  3. Differentiated Services (DiffServ). Here, network devices (routers and switches) are configured to service multiple classes of traffic that have been prioritized differently. Every network traffic must belong to one of the configured classes, in order to be serviced. By applying techniques for queuing and (re-)prioritization, the QoS of the DiffServ model can be optimized.

Furthermore, Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) networks provide dedicated links that provision end-to-end quality network services to organizations via a single transmission path. SLAs for MPLS networks include QoS specifications for bandwidth, latency, and uptime; however, few organizations are able to cope with the associated high costs.
Similarly, Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) deploys different modes of connectivity that could include MPLS and broadband. By monitoring the state of current network connections for performance issues, SD-WANs leverage multiple connectivity modes to fail-over the states of connections that continue to perform poorly, and then look for alternative, better-performing connection(s).

QoS Tools and Mechanisms
Some tools and mechanisms exist, which aim to manage the quality of data traffic, and also ensuring to maintain the QoS requirements that have been specified in SLAs. Depending on their management functions within the network, these QoS tools and mechanisms could be categorized as:

  1. Classification & Marking – these are tools and mechanisms that help to differentiate between applications by sorting and grouping packets into different traffic types as they traverse the network routers, switches, and access points. By marking / labelling each packet as a member of a certain network class, network devices are able to recognize and handle the packet as belonging to such class. 
  2. Congestion Management – these tools rely on the classification and marking of packets, in order to decide what transmission queue that such is to be placed in. Considerations such as priority queuing; first-in, first-out; and, low-latency queuing typically feature in these operations. 
  3. Congestion Avoidance – tools and mechanisms such as: weighted random early detection and random early detection, monitor network traffic for congestion and will drop low-priority packets when congestion occurs. 
  4. Shaping – tools and mechanisms include buffers, Generic Traffic Shaping and Frame Relay Traffic Shaping. They manipulate the traffic entering the network, and prioritize real-time applications over those that are not time-sensitive; such as email and messaging. Similar to shaping, traffic policing tools focus on throttling excess traffic and dropping packets. 
  5. Link efficiency tools maximize bandwidth use and reduce delay for packets accessing the network. Approaches could include Real-Time Transport Protocol header compression, Transmission Control Protocol header compression, and link compression.

The Role of Government
Government plays a crucial and indispensable role in ensuring the quality of Internet services that are provisioned to users and businesses within their jurisdictions. Through their regulatory bodies, they have the responsibility to ensure that good quality Internet service is attained and maintained by service providers that operate within the jurisdiction.
In the pursuit of this responsibility, Governments are encouraged to adopt a consumer-oriented approach that focuses on delivery of quality services at reasonable and affordable costs; as well as facilitate the introduction of new modern services, and the expansion of existing services into modern and innovative quality services delivered at reasonable and affordable costs. Thus, Governments:

  1. Set QoS standard, and specify the QoS parameters against which performance shall be evaluated, with the associated target levels. Governments may periodically amend these parameters or the targets to align with evolving trends and development. 
  2. Specify methodologies for measuring performance against each Quality of Service parameter, and would periodically carry out measurement assessments against QoS parameters as deemed necessary. 
  3. Receive reports and carry out occasional audits / assessments of the QoS provisioned by licensees within their jurisdictions; and could apply appropriate sanctions in cases of non-compliance by licensees. 
  4. Handle complaints from consumers seeking redress due to dissatisfaction regarding the services rendered to them by service providers. Such complaints may relate to arbitrary disconnection, poor services delivery, supply of sub-standard equipment, and delayed restoration of service, poor picture quality, etc. 
  5. Publish results of QoS measurements and assessments carried out by regulatory bodies to periodically evaluate the QoS performance of licensees operating and provisioning services within the jurisdiction.

In conclusion, discussions are still ongoing pertaining whether or not it is possible to achieve ubiquitous end-to-end QoS on the Internet; particularly considering the fact that the decentralized nature of the Internet does not essentially allow for the traffic to be differentiated using exact or widely similar mechanisms. The polarization of such discussions have polluted expectations regarding QoS, and how QoS technologies might be realistically deployed on a global scale.

These notwithstanding, it would be chaotic to discuss the modern trends and realities associated with the quality of Internet service in certain jurisdictions with the role “government” removed from the picture. The role of Governments is the adhesive that binds together the contemporary discussions relating to Quality of Service as an Internet Governance discourse. As the global landscape gradually gravitates towards more inclusive, participatory, and collaborative approaches to Internet Governance which leaves no stakeholder behind, it is hoped that citizens would be able to insist rightly and knowledgeably on quality Internet service; even as governments become proactive and responsive to the duties and mandates of their roles and responsibilities in ensuring good quality Internet service within their jurisdictions.

[1] Huston, G. (2012, September). The Concept of Quality of Service in the Internet. APNIC. Retrieved from
[2] Kurbalija, J. (2014). An Introduction to Internet Governance (6th edition). DiploFoundation. Retrieved from
[3] Zhao, W. (2000, April 20). Internet Quality of Service. Retrieved from

Author Biography

Innocent Adriko is an Information Technology Scientist from the Uganda Institute of ICT. He holds a Diploma in Information Technology Science, with great interest in Internet Policy and Governance, and Youth inclusion in Internet Governance. He has undergone a number of trainings especially on Internet Governance, Youth Peacebuilding and Human Rights. He is a member of the ICANN community which he joined as a Next Generation at ICANN65 Policy Forum; and is also a member of the Internet Society (ISOC) and one of the ISOC 2019 IGF Youth Ambassadors. Innocent is most passionate about International Relations and Diplomacy with great focus on global matters of concern such as Internet Governance, Peace and Security and Climate action.

Country: Uganda
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