Even if your current satellite internet service provider offers unlimited broadband, chances are they will operate a fair usage policy. This could mean that your provider is policing the actual amount of data you download, but they will also use broadband traffic management so that the actions of one heavy broadband user do not affect the experience of others.
What is broadband traffic management?
If you are streaming a lot of HD video, downloading many large files or uploading large files, you could be slowing down other people’s broadband connections. Remember that satellite links are slow and expensive in comparison to your internet connection at home.
You are particularly at risk of traffic management, or in violation of fair usage policy if you are:
- using peer-to-peer networks (like torrents) and downloading and uploading large files
- remotely connecting to work from home and using VPNs (Virtual Private Networks)
- streaming large files over a long period of time
- uploading large files to services like YouTube or Vimeo
Broadband traffic management is tied into something called a “contention ratio”. Contention ratio shows the ratio of potential demand to actual bandwidth. If you have 50 users trying to use one connection, for example, the contention ratio is 50:1. As everyone on your street or in your building is trying to use one connection, the contention ratio for your area can be very high. At non peak times of the day, like early afternoon Monday to Friday or midnight to 6am, the contention ratio will naturally be much lower.
If your connection appears to be slowing others down consistently, providers are likely to enforce the fair usage policy. Traffic management tends to come into play if you are using your connection heavily at peak times. If you are downloading an HD movie at 6pm, for example, it’s possible that your connection could be slowed down by your provider.
Implementation of the policy can take different forms. Firstly your provider will probably start to ‘throttle’ your connection. This limits the amount of data you can download and restricts your usage at peak times. You can tell if this is happening as you will see that websites take longer to load than usual without apparent technical issues.
In other cases your provider may even attempt to charge you for your excess usage or restrict your access to certain websites. This is especially true if you regularly use peer-to-peer services as they are often associated with piracy.