How data quota management can ensure fair distribution of bandwidth, part 1
Written by Rune Larsen, Service Marketing Manager | 06 April 2020
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Cargo vessels, away from land for weeks on end, depend on reliable Internet access to exchange business-critical information between ship and shore. Internet access and communication services not only facilitate vital business traffic during day-to-day operations, but it’s also considered an essential requirement for a satisfying and rewarding life at sea.
Seafarers are no different from any other industry workforce, in that they want to stay in regular touch with family and be in sync with life ashore. Onboard job satisfaction and Internet access are thus intrinsically linked.
Providing Internet access to the crew onboard seagoing ships differs from Internet given to office workers, as crew member also “live” onboard while not working on their shifts. And, in many situations, there is no alternative, as either 3G/4G is not at all available or difficult to get, due to roaming complications.
Onboard Internet a must-have
Young people entering the industry expect at least some access to Internet services, whether on sea or land. In fact, onboard Internet access is increasingly influencing seafarers’ decisions about which shipping company they want to work for.
Simply put, your crew members need Internet because no modern human being can properly live without it. Today, no one happily agrees to a job at sea that isolates them from the world for six months on end.
No one in the industry argues the matter any longer: Internet onboard – for both business and crew – is a must. The only question that remains is: How will you as a shipowner manage limited bandwidth capacity to ensure that business traffic isn’t undercut and that everyone on board has the same access rights?
‘Bring Your Own Device’ – a potential bandwidth issue
A natural consequence of onboard Internet and connectivity being the new norm in maritime shipping is crew members increasingly bringing their own smartphones, tablets and laptops to sea.
This poses a challenge – if allowed, various applications and services on personal devices consume too much onboard bandwidth (instant capacity) and too much data (cumulative capacity). The apps that use the most bandwidth and data are typically the apps that your crews use the most: Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Netflix, Snapchat, Spotify, Twitter and YouTube.
Bandwidth at sea is expensive and limited onboard ships. While Internet connectivity onshore is getting better and better, with even 10 GB data plans being commonly fast and unlimited, satellite connectivity is not developing at the same pace and certainly not at the same price levels.
Therefore, increasing the instant and cumulative capacity (bandwidth and data caps) is too expensive. Besides, no one has ever said: “I don’t want more speed – it’s enough now”.
Vessel bandwidth capacity is shared among everyone onboard. This means that all emails (personal and business), and all business traffic like for instance chart updates, file sharing, remote support, etc., and all Internet browsing compete for the same scarce resource.
Data-intensive apps and services on private devices – such as video streaming and video and voice calling – eat into the capacity that needs to be reserved for business needs (e.g. business email and file transfers). To make matters worse, many applications and systems download data without user intervention or knowledge, like apps updates and other background activity. And that is not all, as there is also the potential malware or other rogue software in the BYOD regimen that can also consume excessive bandwidth and data if left unchecked.
In a competitive, low-margin maritime environment, business needs must have priority at all times. This won’t be possible without controlling usage in private devices – or any devices connected to the ship’s network, for that matter.
Internet data usage at sea is both expensive and limited. To allow fair bandwidth distribution, keep costs in check and make sure that crew allowance doesn’t undermine business needs, you need to manage bandwidth capacity across your fleet in a way that is both fair and easily controllable. In other words, you need to control traffic.
Controlling traffic can be done in a good way or in a bad way. Stay tuned next week to learn how you can allocate a certain amount of free surfing data each month to everyone on board, ensuring an optimal balance between crewing and business needs.
Rune Larsen is Service Marketing Manager in Dualog, with responsibilities for user experience design, visual design and marketing of existing and new services. Educated in business strategy and marketing from the Arctic University of Norway, he has more than 25 years of experience from the creative industry, where he worked as a consultant, designer and creative director in various advertising agencies and design studios. He's been orchestrating brand identity projects, design work and brand building campaigns for a wide range of organisations. He brings a passion for great design to the team, never compromising on the importance of the 'experience' part of UX. When not at the office, he enjoys hiking with his wife or is busy being a football coach for his youngest daughter. His fitness regime involves either running or cross-country skiing. Rune is an avid reader of business-related books, and he loves the occasional bottle of Barolo.