We also provided a downloadable two-page document, based on information provided by MTN Satellite Communications, that you can access by clicking this link: Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs.
Now, let's take the conversation to the next level by reviewing 6 tips that will help you pick the right VSAT package for your needs.
1. Educate yourself.
Before purchasing a yacht VSAT package, its important to educate yourself regarding the technologies and options available. Learn the terminology, research VSAT online and talk to trusted industry colleagues. For a list of VSAT terms and definitions, use MTN's VSAT Glossary.
Gather as much information as possible before deciding on your yacht VSAT service so you can make an informed decision when entering into a satellite communications contract.
2. Take your time.
Don't rush in your decision making process. Take the time to assess which VSAT components and service provider are right for you.
Evaluate two or three VSAT providers and get prices, recommendations and references. When comparing providers, be sure that you are evaluating equivalent products and services.
Components offered by competing providers may not be equivalent. So take your time to carefully evaluate each proposal fully. Don't allow time constraints to rush you into making a hasty decision that you'll later regret.
3. Choose your VSAT antenna.
Remember: size matters when it comes to your VSAT antenna. MTN Satellite Communications advises users to, "choose a VSAT dish (or antenna) appropriate to your bandwidth and coverage needs."
Dont choose the minimum dish size solely because it looks better on the mast and costs less. "The larger the antenna and more powerful the BUC (block up converter), the stronger signal you will get.
"Satellite beams are like light beams. When at the center, light is intense; but toward the edge, light starts to fade. A powerful antenna will ensure a strong signaleven at the edge of a satellite beams footprintand may even help to widen your coverage area."
Antenna placement to minimize mast blockage is also an important consideration. In some mast design scenarios, two antennas may be required to insure the necessary line of sight for full time VSAT operation.
4. Look into optional VSAT services.
Today's owners and guests expect to have a high level of Internet connectivity 24/7. However, there are times when that same high level of connectivity is not required.
Therefore, it makes sense to evaluate your use scenarios and look for a VSAT service provider that offers a plan with varying services, depending upon your fluxuating needs.
For instance, you can work with your VSAT provider to temporarily upgrade your yacht's bandwidth during high-use periods. To save money, you can also suspend use when on board VSAT is unnecessary.
5. Review your contract carefully.
VSAT contracts can vary widely, offering different options and levels of flexibility. Before signing, familiarize yourself with these aspects of your VSAT agreement:
Fair Access Policy (FAP)
Before signing a contract, ask to see the VSAT providers Fair Access Policy (FAP). An FAP is a bandwidth cap applied by the VSAT provider. The bandwidth cap limits each customer's transfer of a specific amount of data over a specific period of time.
According to MTN Satellite Communications, some providers have a very limiting FAP that restricts the use of certain high-bandwidth apps such as Skype, YouTube, and other peer-to-peer and/or streaming applications. Usage could also be throttled down at peak periods, or restricted by a monthly data cap with an overage fee and an additional price per MB once your cap has been reached.
"Thats fine if the cap is reasonable for your usage requirements. Many times, however, its much less than desired or less than your expected usage. Check the services terms and conditions to make sure this doesnt happen to you, as it could double or triple the price on the price sheet" if you need to secure more bandwidth after signing the contract.
Contention has to do with the extent to which you share bandwidth with other users and isexpressed in ratios. For instance, a contention ratio of 10:1 means that you are sharing your VSAT service with nine other yachts.
When the network is less busy, such as during the off-season, the contention ratio is reduced. But you should be aware that during high season, the contention will probably increase, slowing down your connection.
A good VSAT provider will anticipate high use levels and increased business, upgrading the network regularly to accommodate higher demands. Before signing a contract, you may want to ask each provider how often their network is upgraded.
6. Consider a Committed Information Rate (CIR).
You can avoid sharing bandwidth by including a Committed Information Rate (CIR) in your contract. The CIR insures dedicated bandwidth for your yacht's users and is ideal if you anticipate that guests and crew will be using VoIP, Skype, video conferencing and TV streaming.
Ask your VSAT provider to help you calculate your CIR needs, or use the chart on page 2 of our Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs.
I hope this information will help you find the right marine VSAT provider for your guests and crew.
To learn more about any of these six steps or for a no obligation conversation with a Great Circle Systems marine VSAT expert about how we can improve your Internet connectivity, please click the red button below.