Yacht bandwidth usage guide: How much data do I need?
When it comes to managing remote connectivity, you need to ensure your satellite broadband plan will allow enough data for the business and entertainment needs of both your crew and customers. Offering high-speed internet, HD video streaming and other services gives yacht owners and crew entertainment and charter management companies a competitive advantage. You don’t want to overpay for data you aren’t using, but you also don’t want to limit the onboard experience by not having enough bandwidth.
According to research conducted by NSSLGlobal, yacht crew members’ expectations for their on-board bandwidth are increasing significantly. Of the survey participants, almost half said they believe they should get the same level and quality of connectivity as they do when they are in their own home. As on-land broadband speeds accelerate, both crew and guests are going to continue to expect the same type of experience while at-sea. If you don’t have the appropriate bandwidth, you could end up dealing with a lot of unhappy clients and staff.
When you are trying to figure out how much data will be used on the yacht, it is crucial to take into account how many devices each user has. Most people have multiple – such as a smartphone and tablet. As the source pointed out, 90 percent of crew members tend to have at least two devices on board with them, and 16 percent have as many as six. Furthermore, MegaYacht News reported that the number of “data-heavy devices” per person that are being brought on board averages about two to three, each of which require a bandwidth of about 4 to 50 Mbps. This rapid proliferation of mobile devices means that if you have a yacht that usually has about 20 people on board, you now need a broadband plan that will be able to service somewhere between 40 and 60 people, at least.
Bandwidth needs per application
Yacht communications and entertainment require a satellite broadband network with reliable connectivity. In order to know how much data you will need for your broadband plan, it is helpful to first obtain a better understanding of how much bandwidth is required for people to comfortably use different applications. Most yacht communications service providers provide data allowances based on data speeds versus download size. The difference between the two is important. Bytes, such as megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB), are used to measure the data storage capacity. Megabits are used to measure speed and data transfer rates, with 8 bits per one byte. Your connection speed does not affect how much data is being used.
Simple functions such as browsing the internet and checking email may not require much data, but if you plan to use the web for streaming videos, downloading files or using social media, that changes things. Not all files are created equal. How much data you need will depend on how you intend to use the broadband – meaning which applications will be used, how often and by how many people.
“Your bandwidth needs depend on your usage of applications.”
Email and web browsing
Without attachments, the average email uses about 50 kilobits per message. But if you are sending, receiving or downloading attachment files, it will increase. On average, basic plans that have anywhere between 2-6 Mbps are the minimum recommendation. However, if you expect your users to do more than simple web surfing and email checking – which most will – than you will need more bandwidth.
On average, browsing social media applications requires about about .03 Mbps. But keep in mind that this is per user, and it increases depending on what is being done on the site, such as watching videos. Furthermore, when trying to determine how much bandwidth will be necessary, keep in mind that each person typically has multiple social media apps on their mobile device. To get the highest level of quality for Facebook, one of the most popular platforms used, it is recommended you get a plan with a speed of 264 kbps.
Video streaming and conferencing
Whether it is for keeping in touch with family and friends or conducting business meetings, Skype is a video conferencing app that many people use when they are traveling for both professional and personal purposes. The recommended download/upload speed for standard calling functionalities is 100 kbps/100 kbps. However, for high-quality video calls, it jumps to 500 kbps/500 kbps. For a group video of seven or more people, it is recommended you get a speed of 8 Mbps/512 kbps.
Below is a breakdown of the recommended bandwidth you should expect to include in your plan for popular streaming applications based on quality level:
Broadband connection speed: 1.5 Mbps
Standard-definition (SD) quality: 3.0 Mbps
High-definition (HD) quality: 5.0 Mbps
Ultra HD quality: 25 Mbps
360p quality: 1.0 Mbps
480p quality: 1.5 Mbps
720p quality: 3.5 Mbps
360p quality: 1.0 Mbps
720p quality: 2.5 Mbps
1080p quality: 4.0 Mbps
On average, if you want to offer guests and crew members email, Facebook, web surfing, HD music and Skype voice and video calling, it is recommended you get a plan with a download/upload speed of at least 786 kbps/256 kbps. However, if you anticipate needing even more bandwidth, say to offer all the above, plus streaming applications for YouTube, Netflix and Hulu in SD, you should go for a plan that is at least 6 Mbps/2 Mbps or more, depending on the number of guests or crew onboard.
Choosing the right provider
Yacht operators have several options to optimize their onboard bandwidth usage but it’s important to find a provider that meets your needs. Look for providers that provide temporary bandwidth “bursts” for high usage periods or when many guests are onboard at once.
Many providers also offer products that can help to get the most of your contracted bandwidth. For example, EMC’s product, SpeedNet, can cache popular websites and social media sites locally onboard so that these sites are available without having to use the VSAT network. This allows for bandwidth to be available for more high bandwidth usage like video streaming or Skype.
To ensure the highest level of satisfaction, yacht and charter owners should look into a service that makes it easy to prioritize and customize bandwidth allocations based on users and applications. For example, while at sea you could limit the use of certain applications, such as social media, for crew users. Working with a provider that can deliver a tailored solution for the specific needs of your staff and guests would be in your best interest.