Streamlining Starlink Connectivity: A Kognitive Edge Approach to Dropouts

In the maritime world, where the open sea presents vast connectivity challenges, the SpaceX Starlink satellite system has quickly emerged as the leading connectivity solution. Bringing high speed internet to vessels of all sizes with relatively lower pricing compared to traditional VSAT solutions, there are now options for vessels and Managed Service Providers alike. Managed Service Providers have been deploying two primary installation configurations, single and dual Starlink installations, that give flexibility to deployments and allow for both cost and footprint constraints.

Larger vessels often opt for dual Starlink antennas and terminals. Capitalizing on the inherent advantage of Kognitive Networks bandwidth bonding, this setup ensures seamless connectivity, with one antenna covering any dropout experienced by the other, ensuring uninterrupted internet access crucial for operational efficiency and safety at sea. However, some vessels and network managers prefer a single Starlink terminal, to reduce costs or when faced with limited mounting options. As detailed below, Kognitive Networks can provide robust connectivity with either configuration.

Understanding the Dual Antenna Advantage

The dual Starlink terminal installations offer higher capacity and improved reliability when there are intermittent connectivity issues like those observed with Starlink and other satellite or cellular connections. Kognitive Networks’ Advanced Bandwidth Bonding, a technology that combines the bandwidth of both terminals to improve reliability of data transfers, mitigates single terminal dropouts by intelligently routing flows through the available links. Additionally, the process not only maximizes internet speed and minimizes connectivity loss while providing a WAN-link fallback, ensuring that operations remain unaffected during periods of signal loss from one antenna. It's a solution that caters perfectly to the needs of larger vessels, demanding the highest level of connectivity assurance for their extensive operations.

Large File Transfers

Working closely with maritime customers as they integrate Starlink on their vessels, it is observed that Starlink terminals have frequent dropouts, with frequent short-duration (1 to 2 second) dropouts (i.e. packet loss, connectivity loss), in some locations with a frequency as often as every 60 to 120 seconds. The dropouts cause application reliability issues, particularly for large file transfers and syncing (100MB or more), and can cause transfer failures and retries. There are methods to work around connectivity drops, such as 'file-chunking' and data transfer resumption solution, however many enterprises services do not support these capabilities.

Challenges with Starlink Terminals in Native TCP Mode
  • Frequent short durations dropouts, occurring as often as every 60 to 120 seconds
  • Dropouts can cause failures in large file transfers
Traditional Solution: File-chunking
  • A method where large files are broken down into smaller segments.
  • Improves reliability and allows resuming transfers from the last successful chunk in case of interruptions.
  • Used in various applications:
    • Cloud storage services
    • Content delivery networks (CDNs)
    • Video streaming platforms
    • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing
    • Distributing software updates
  • Costly, not scalable

With Kognitive Advanced Bandwidth Bonding, if one terminal drops the data transfer will continue on the other terminal, so file-chunking is not needed. Thus, the dual-terminal Starlink install has emerged as the most reliable configuration for connectivity deep at sea.

The Single Starlink Terminal Challenge

Not all vessels are equipped or have the capacity to support dual Starlink terminal installations. Smaller vessels, or those with budgetary constraints, often rely on a single Starlink. While more cost-effective and spatially efficient, this configuration lacks the redundancy offered by dual installations, leading to significant disruptions in connectivity. Working with a large maritime shipping operator, this was particularly evident in providing reliable enterprise connectivity on the vessel where file servers/systems routinely performed large data file transfers. A single moment of signal loss would halt the entire transfer process, necessitating a restart - and in many cases, the in-house IT organization needed to intervene. Such interruptions not only hampered operational efficiency but also posed risks to critical communications and data exchanges – and were frustrating for crew and support staff alike.

Multi-Path Kognitive VPN (MPK-VPN): A Game Changer for Single Antenna Installations

Kognitive Networks’ MPK-VPN POP Dropoff with integrated PEP (Performance Enhancing Proxy) is excellent at mitigating the unique challenges faced by single Starlink terminal vessels. Within the Kognitive Edge platform, administrators can enable this technology on a single site or vessel basis.

Kognitive Networks employs a proprietary PEP designed to optimize IP data transfers when using satellite or cellular communications where packet loss and latency are prevalent. By incorporating fast retransmission to compensate for sustained and systematic packet loss, sequence numbering for packet reordering, and rate-based flow control, Kognitive's PEP significantly enhances the speed, reliability and efficiency of file transfers. These tailored mechanisms allow for the correction of errors without end-user retransmission, ensure packets are processed in the correct order, and adjust sending rates in real-time to maximize network throughput—making Kognitive Networks' PEP a sophisticated, proprietary solution for overcoming the inherent challenges of TCP-based communications in demanding network environments.

MPK-VPN: Multi-Path Kognitive Virtual Private Network
  • Establishes VPN tunnels to public or private hubs using the Kognitive Performance Enhancing Proxy (PEP) with integrated Bandwidth Bonding
  • Provides regional Point of Presence (POP) drop-off capability for WAN interfaces
  • Mitigates the challenges faced by single Starlink terminal vessels
  • Greatly improves performance of Starlink, 5G, VSAT links
Benefits of Kognitive PEP
  • Simply to activate: can be enabled on a per-vessel, per-WAN source basis
  • Significantly enhances the reliability and efficiency of file transfers, eliminating the need for 'file-chunking'

The integration of the MPK-VPN POP Dropoff feature has shown remarkable success in mitigating the enterprise network failure rates for large file transfers, which previously plagued single antenna vessels. This solution not only ensures the reliability of data transfers but also eliminates the need for complex workarounds like file-chunking, streamlining operational processes onboard.

The Future of Connectivity – Kognitive Hub and the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN


Kognitive Networks' latest innovation, the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN (MPK-VPN), leverages an elegant hub-and-spoke model to tackle connectivity challenges inherent with enterprise communication particularly when using single/multiple links in satellite and cellular communication. This new technology is engineered to optimize the transmission of data over multiple paths simultaneously, enhancing redundancy and ensuring uninterrupted connectivity. By intelligently routing data through the best performing paths and with integrated PEP, the MPK-VPN minimizes packet loss, improves speed, reduces latency, and improves overall network reliability with the added power of Advanced Bandwidth Bonding. Designed to address the specific needs and shortcoming of wireless connectivity in remote operations where traditional VPN solutions fall short, the Multi-Path Kognitive VPN is a pioneering connectivity solution for enterprises that need both robust and adaptable connectivity solutions to tackle the unique challenges in building and maintaining their own global communication infrastructures.

Kognitive Networks - A Partner for Reliable Data Connectivity

Kognitive Networks is helping managed service providers and sophisticated enterprises ensure robust connectivity that directly improves their operations and bottom line. To see how Kognitive Networks can drive innovation through better connectivity using Starlink as well as legacy VSAT, cellular, and traditional wired interfaces, contact us and schedule a demo today.

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