Bandwidth is often likened to a highway. More lanes can handle more cars; more bandwidth can handle more packets of data. However, even twelve-lane highways can reach gridlock at rush hour. With bandwidth, all those bunches of data still have to queue onto the entrance ramp, navigate the lanes and exit. One wide-load application or streaming convoy can slow everything. Understanding where precious bandwidth is going can provide valuable insight into your maritime communications capabilities and reveal how you might better manage vital offshore VSAT resources.

 

Numbers Games and VSAT Systems

Vessel bandwidth speeds are often set to 256 x 512 to 512 x 1024 for more users. Portions of that bandwidth are often times allocated to priority applications like phone lines, video streams and other corporate applications each with dedicated CIR or Committed Information Rates. Add to that the typically five to 20 crew members, each of them possessing at least two devices that use bandwidth. This includes not only corporate computers and technology but also personal devices like mobile phones, laptops, tablets and smartwatches. While each may use only a few kilobytes, together, they can account for up to 100 kilobytes per second (kbps) – a quantity sufficient to start narrowing lanes.

Even harmless and in fact useful background applications must be considered. For example, the basic network time protocol for syncing devices with the U.S. Naval Observatory’s master clocks comes in at 17 kbps transmitting and 40 kbps receiving. After a simple math exercise multiplying five devices onboard running this application, we’re at 85 kbps transmit and 200 kbps receive. Considering a 256 x 512 link, this certainly will not slow a connection but neither is it insignificant traffic. This multiplied by a number of programs and apps, total required bandwidth begins to places surprising demands on VSAT systems.

Bandwidth Hogs

While mobile devices are often the largest consumers of bandwidth, usage often follows the Pareto Principle: 80 percent of usage comes from just 20 percent of total users. For example, BlueTide recently saw on one liftboat of the 37 devices connected to the network, nine mobile devices were claiming more than 75 percent of the bandwidth, and none of them were corporate devices. Interestingly, slow email is usually the symptom of bandwidth consumption, not the cause. Instead, applications like YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, messaging, music streaming and cloud backups are common bandwidth consumers. Ultimately, however, users – not apps – are the culprits. On a company network with limited resources, bandwidth-eating usage correlates to user activity and practices.

The Visual Component

Technology itself complicates usage norms, as more and more information is visual. Graphics – specifically video – are often at the heart of disappearing bandwidth. Streaming video, voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) video conferencing, “free” video calling platforms like Skype, media file sharing, streaming music, and cloud storage and transfer applications use considerable bandwidth. For example, Skype can require up to 100 kbps per voice call and up to 300 kbps per video webcam session, and it will capture that portion of bandwidth for the duration of the call.

Bandwidth Usage by App

Terrestrially, video consumes 70 percent of all downstream bandwidth during peak hours in North America. Of that:

Meanwhile, all non-video Internet services combined take up a mere 6 percent.

BlueTide VSAT Services

 Degradation reveals itself in crawling speeds, pixelated images and video, constant buffering and even failure to transmit or download. To help mitigate that, BlueTide Communications has the VSAT management tools and services to ensure you’ll always have the bandwidth you need when you need it. For more information on BlueTide’s VSAT broadband capabilities, VSAT services or its award-winning AMP – Access Management Portal – app for Wi-Fi control, contact us. Then, check out our blog article on managing bandwidth. Awareness is the key to conserving bandwidth.