As life in the cellular world brings our focus more and more on data usage and the meaning of the term megabyte—explained in a recent New York Times video—we offer a simple definition: A megabyte (MB) is a measure of the size of a data file or data transmission.
Think 1 MB for:
• That family reunion photo you want to share
• Every minute of a song download
• 100 text-only e-mails sent or received
• 5 web page loads
Going beyond megabytes, the fact that today’s smartphone data plans often are gauged in gigabytes (1 GB = 1,024 MB) is an indication of just how addicted we’ve become to data transmissions, in part because common types of always-on Internet access in the home—cable modem and DSL—put no apparent limits on MB or GB use, quantifying it by delivery speed instead.
But consider this: If you’ve succeeded in understanding what your own megabyte usage is (congrats!), think about the person in charge of a crew aboard a commercial vessel at sea for months at a time.
Thanks to the innovative technology of satellite communications services such as KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband, which was recently recognized as the market share leader in maritime VSAT systems, commercial ships are more and more likely to have Internet and e-mail capability at sea due to lower per megabyte prices that make it affordable for them to offer these services onboard.
For a ship to have affordable, reliable, always-on broadband connectivity is no simple feat: KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband network is the only maritime VSAT using ArcLight® spread spectrum technology. Although the technology is similar to that used by cell phone services on land, ArcLight was developed exclusively for KVH’s TracPhone V-series antennas, which are designed and built to be both rugged enough for the marine environment and compact enough to go onboard any size vessel.
With the increasing availability of broadband connectivity at sea, ship owners, IT officers, and even individual yacht owners are all gaining a greater understanding of the meaning of megabytes, which must be closely monitored in the mobile maritime environment. To help, KVH has even developed a free monitoring service that tracks megabyte data usage and alerts mini-VSAT Broadband customers when a selected megabyte level has been reached.
Data usage among commercial ships may run anywhere from a modest 50 MB to more than 5,000 MB (5 GB) per month, according to an article in the February 2012 issue of Maritime IT & Electronics, an industry publication, although experts expect commercial maritime data usage to increase as more shipboard operations become reliant on broadband connectivity.
And even if 5 GB is not all that much more than, say, your average teenager’s 2 GB/month iPhone data plan, it is still groundbreaking in terms of giving crew members plenty of opportunities to e-mail and stay in touch with family and friends and improving crew morale.
Gone are the days of long passages at sea meaning isolation from loved ones and news of the world: The era of the maritime megabyte is with us!
Read about commercial maritime operations that are improving their broadband connectivity with KVH’s mini-VSAT Broadband in our KVH case studies.