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Many organisations and industries have been impacted by COVID-19 all over the world, satellite communication has of course been no exception. INTEGRA enables users to See and Control the on-board applications that are using satellite data via an online portal. We investigated how our maritime customers’ data adapted and changed during this period.
Mariners and seafarers were among the many impacted, as individuals were suddenly stranded on ships and vessels out at sea and in ports. Global lockdown rules restricted the normality of shift rotation and planned stopovers at docks and ports that would usually offboard employees after their shifts returning them to their families and hometowns. In June, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) reported that approximately 300,000 mariners are isolated at sea due to the ongoing crew rotation crisis with limited connectivity available to communicate with family, friends and colleagues onshore.
Our agile world has developed nuances and new ways of working with the ‘new normal’ developing as each day passes. The rapid adoption of tools such as Microsoft Teams has more than doubled year-on-year indicating that businesses are embracing the enforced need for digitalisation to keep now isolated teams connected, safe and operational.
So, what did happen to data use during the pandemic?
Our INTEGRA suite of products has deep packet inspection embedded enabling users to See and Control the applications that are using satellite data via an online portal.
The applications consuming data has changed in the three months from March to May 2020 when compared to the three months prior. Everyday processes are being influenced and impacted which appears to be driving the shift in the applications that the ship crews are consuming.
Between December 2019 and February 2020, the landscape of satellite data usage was consistent with popular applications such as Google, iCloud, Facebook and WhatsApp Video Calling topping the usage list, respectively.
Fast forward to July 2020, we split the time frames into two distinct sections December 2019 – February 2020 vs March – May 2020, we can see some interesting data shifts;
As the pandemic was rapidly growing all over the world, we observed that although overall data usage began to decrease the use of messaging apps held steady and increased in some cases. Messaging apps were consistently appearing in INTEGRA’s Top 20 apps by usage reports, notably regional applications such as LINE (+79%) and Telegram appeared for the first time as well as the normal and consistent appearance of WhatsApp. VOIP apps, while small in terms of overall usage showed considerable growth during the period analysed suggesting much more ‘calls’ were being made.
As the data shows, usage across the Social Media and messaging apps increased consistently with Facebook and Facebook Voice being the highest-ranked with usage growing 30%. WhatsApp remained as the dominant messaging app with WhatsApp Video growing +50%, Media +40% and Calling +30%.
And finally, no report would be complete without Netflix getting a well-earned mention. INTEGRA data has recorded that again while small in usage terms overall, the use of this application did grow by 40% over the period.
What could be driving these trends in light of COVID-19?
Reflecting on the pandemic period, it’s not yet clear whether this data shows a temporary reaction to extreme events or whether there will be a long-term shift in crew data behaviour and attitude.
If we consider the current maritime market it may be that crew members had heightened concern and were, therefore, communicating more with their loved ones onshore. It could also be that vessels have been unable to dock and undertake crew rotation hence more communication with friends and family. This could influence personal usage of data being increased to support crew welfare of the individual that is somewhat marooned on the vessel.
Ultimately it is difficult to say and may well be different per region.
Well, what next?
With a global economic downturn expected along with continued unpredictability, it is imperative vessel operators better understand onboard data usage.
Are we seeing a permanent shift crew data habits and attitudes?
It will be interesting to review the data once again after another three months to see how things have changed with more ‘unlocking’ going on across the world.
Keep an eye on our website for the next review of satellite data usage in October.
Adding a solution like AST’s INTEGRA See and INTEGRA Control enables data use visibility to monitor and manage applications that are responsible for consuming large amounts of costly bandwidth. This gives valuable insight and intelligence giving users access to data to quickly identify and take action to deliver real efficiencies and cost-savings that improves maritime operations.
Published by Andrew Smith, Group Technical Director, Applied Satellite Technology (AST) Ltd