What are you doing right now? If youre reading this blog post, you may be accessing your Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account.
Maybe you are simultaneously streaming music or a movie. And perhaps you are also viewing a friends crazy cat YouTube video on your smartphone. (If you're accessing multipe applications on board a vessel, your yacht Internet connection may be painfully slow.)
And its not just you--there are probably others in your home, office or vessel doing the same thing, at the same time.
A world reliant on constant connectivity.
All of these online activities have become so common in the last few years that we rarely think about the amount of bandwidth they require. Especially in locations with 3G or 4G technology, device connectivity and bandwidth speed appear effortless.
Whether you are a digital native, (a younger person who grew up with the Internet) or a digital immigrant, (one who has learned to use todays technology tools), you have come to expect to simultaneously run multiple applications on multiple devices throughout your day.
In fact, you rely so much on constant, fast connectivity that when you encounter a slow connection it truly tweaks your world.
But there still are locations or situations in which bandwidth limitations adversely affect computing speed. As all yacht professionals know, one of those scenarios in which bandwidth can be very limited is aboard a vessel at sea. And as many of you also know, a slow connection can make guests and crew, all of whom have grown used to fast Internet on land, very grumpy.
Connecting at sea.
Unfortunately, this is not a problem that can be solved simply by paying more money for more bandwidth. In our recent blog post, A Yacht VSAT Primer, we discussed how yachts use VSAT to improve remote Internet connectivity. However, the truth is that no matter what you pay for it, Internet at sea will not be as fast as your on-land connection.
The biggest reasons for the slower connection are the limitations of satellite communications technology and the high cost and limited availability of satellite bandwidth. This means that bandwidth speeds comparable to those on shore are not available at any cost.
Yacht Internet connection speed vs. land connection speed.
It is not uncommon for homes and small businesses to enjoy Internet speeds of 20 to 30 Mbps. Business enterprises can have Internet connections even many times faster.
By contrast, most yachts have a connection of .5 to 1Mbps, with burst capabilities of up to 2Mbps. With the technology used on most boats, there is a practical upper limit of 4Mbps.
Using different technologies, faster speeds can be achieved on a yacht, but it is extremely expensive, even by Superyacht standards, and therefore not commonly found. So a typical home will have an Internet connection that is 20 to 30 times faster than the typical yacht.
And while a home connection might be shared by three or four users, your yacht Internet connection will be shared by owners, guests, and crew that might total 20 users or more.
How latency slows your on board connection.
The term latency refers to delays typically incurred in processing of network data. Excessive latency creates bottlenecks that prevent data from filling the network "pipe," thus decreasing effective bandwidth.
On land, a few miles may connect your home or office to a main substation via fiber optic cable. This makes the jump from your device to the substation almost instantaneous. Here, the network "pipe" is relatively short and wide.
However, a vessels VSAT antenna must transmit a signal 22,300 miles into space to a satellite orbiting the earth. The signal then returns to earth about ½ second later before it can jump onto a fast-speed fiber optic cable.
The VSAT "pipe" is much longer and narrower than the one in which data travels on land. This, coupled with multiple people on board using applications requiring lots of bandwidth, adverse weather conditions and bandwidth caps, can lead to a connection that is sometimes painfully slow.
By slow connection, I mean anything from pages that take many minutes to load to no Internet connection at all. This can be extremely frustrating or even frightening to guests and crew used to being constantly connected to work, family and friends.
So what can you do to increase your connection speed on board you vessel? If its in the budget, a faster connection is always better.
But even with the fastest possible connection, bandwidth demand will likely always exceed supply. That is why it is very important for vessels to have a way to monitor and manage bandwidth use.
Monitoring bandwidth lets network administrators see which users and which applications are using up bandwidth. Is it a high paying charter guest streaming a World Cup soccer match, or is it a stewardess downloading The Hobbit in HD?
Solution: monitoring and managing yacht Internet bandwidth.
Bandwidth management allows you to create rules to control which Internet traffic is allowed and by whom. It also lets you set priorities among users (e.g. the Captain vs. deckhands) and classes of users (e.g. Guests vs. Crew).
Some bandwidth management solutions even let you use more than one Internet connection simultaneously. For instance, you can couple the vessels VSAT system with a shore side 4G connection.
In my next blog post, I'll provide examples of how you can use bandwidth management on your yacht to improve Internet connectivity. In the meantime, download our free bandwidth calculator to determine your bandwidth needs.
Simply click on the red button below to download your free 2-page document: Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Yacht's Bandwidth Needs--AND--How to Calculate Your On Board Bandwidth Needs.