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Is It Possible To Stream Netflix, Hulu and Spotify Over VSAT?

On land, you can’t live without them. At sea, they provide entertainment and connectivity. These are your streaming media services—real-time audio and video—and they include an ever-growing list of both free and subscription favorites like Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora and Spotify. They’ve become expected elements of maritime communications and VSAT services, but they also require some smart planning and management strategies.

Demanding Bandwidth

Known as bandwidth hogs, streaming content services—especially those containing video—are typically demanding of maritime communications services:

  • Standard definition Netflix video requires download speeds of at least 0.5 Mbps but really needs 1.5 to 3 Mbps for standard definition and 5 Mbps for high definition. In turn, standard definition consumes about 1 GB of data per hour. Switch it up to high definition, and users can gorge at rates of 3 to even 7 GB per hour each.

  • YouTube videos can be bandwidth wildcards, ranging from 6.6 MB for a 4-minute video to 73.5 MB at 1080p. System requirements range from a minimum 500 Kbps to download regular videos to 1+Mbps for movies, TV shows or live events.

  • In comparison, Spotify can stream at quality settings of 160 or 320 Kbps. At 160, users can still consume 70 MB per hour, accounting for a full gig in under 15 hours.

If bandwidth is insufficient, however, poor quality, delays and buffering degrade performance, leaving you with lost time and frustration.

VSAT Considerations for Streaming

Multiply usage by assorted services and total users, and your ship’s demand on its VSAT system skyrockets. It’s easy to see why streaming content over VSAT requires management and balance—and the right VSAT package to handle it all. Key considerations include:

  • Equipment and Installation. A wide variety of antennas are available, as are the accompanying routers, switches, computers, Wi-Fi access points and other devices. High Internet speeds require components that are capable of handling those degrees of traffic. In addition, proper installation is crucial for the desired connectivity.

  • Available Bandwidth. Bandwidth equates to both speed and access. To serve streaming content, a ship’s network must first have sufficient bandwidth for critical operations and applications, many of which also depend on real-time, video-intensive streaming communications. Weather, location, coverage, high-traffic periods and shared versus dedicated options all impact performance.

  • Unlimited Data. Most VSAT packages include unlimited data, but they also link data usage to thresholds for speed, or bandwidth. While data isn’t capped, once usage crosses a limit, speedy access may default to potentially slower speeds for all.

  • Tracking, Monitoring and Managing. Policies for tracking, monitoring and managing users can control bandwidth hogs and establish personal responsibility and accountability.

  • Content Filtering and Security. Streaming services offer virtually an unlimited variety of content. Some of it may not be appropriate for all audiences or may slow the entire system. Some of it may be malicious, passively tempting with one click or actively seeking to damage essential systems. Security, filtering and compartmentalization are essential to controlling traffic and identifying and neutralizing potential risks.

  • Application Prioritization. A ship’s critical operations must have priority, but that can happen only if application prioritization protocols are in place. Prioritization software can ensure that the critical operations that need bandwidth have access to it while less important or recreational applications must accept remaining allocated bandwidths.

  • Support and Maintenance. Support for routine issues, maintenance and software updates ensures that your system remains secure and that all equipment will continue to function optimally. Despite the best on-board IT specialists, remote support is essential for both daily performance issues and potential emergencies.

Streaming Within the Maritime Community

Determining who will have access as well as how, when and where they’ll have it should be a top priority. The demands that users place upon VSAT services, their expectations, individual practices, mobile and electronic devices, traffic flow and content all impact your system’s performance. If you would like more information on VSAT packages that will support streaming services, contact BlueTide on our website or call 337-205-6710. From single-user light browsing to multi-user Wi-Fi streaming, we can design the VSAT services package your budget can support and your maritime communications need.


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