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Why do I have to install a patch before I can use Skype?

The main reason is its very aggressive use of network bandwidth. Skype operates by setting up connections with other Skype nodes. It does this when a user logs on and joins the network. A critical part of the skype network is what are called supernodes. Because Skype has no central exchange it has to dynamically allocate connection points from the users that are currently logged on. It has various methods of doing this but if a node is designated a supernode, higher volumes of traffic will be routed through it. Sometimes hosts on the University network can be designated supernodes and can end up routing a lot of traffic on behalf of people who have nothing to do with the University.

If you use Skype without our settings, you may be contravening the Janet acceptable use policy. Your network connection will stop working or work very slowly.

For information on why this is see the faq at:

Skype and the Janet Acceptable Use Policy

Access is provided to the internet via Janet, the high speed education and research network. Two sections of the Janet Acceptable Use Policy may apply to Skype. Section 19 of the Policy prohibits "deliberate activities with any of the following characteristics:

  • wasting staff effort or networked resources, including time on end systems accessible via Janet and the effort of staff involved in the support of those systems;
  • using Janet in a way that denies service to other users (for example, deliberate or reckless overloading of access links or of switching equipment)"

Section 24 of the Policy prohibits "provid[ing] access to Janet to third parties without the prior agreement of Janet (UK)", but Sections 22 and 23 permit a limited amount of such use provided this is regulated by the customer organisation.

Uncontrolled use of Skype, and particularly its bandwidth-hungry super-node behaviour, is likely to breach one or both of these sections.

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This is question number 2694, which appears in the following categories:

Created by David Guest on 5 November 2014 and last updated by Tom Stanton on 29 July 2015