5 Apps That Hog Bandwidth on Your Network

Does your wireless connection ever feel slow and sluggish? Below are five popular applications that can consume quite a bit of bandwidth. Don’t let them bog down your network!

  • Skype and VoIP / video conferencing
  • Dropbox and online backup
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Pandora

Using Meraki’s built-in application visibility makes it easy to see which apps consume the most bandwidth. A look over the past month at the application categories running on Meraki’s network reveals the top three – VoIP and video conferencing, online backup, and email – and the applications that consume the most bandwidth of each of those categories. Figure 1 shows the summary.

Application traffic by category

Figure 1: Application traffic by category

Checking the 5 apps listed above reveals how much bandwidth each uses on the wireless network:

  • Skype and VoIP / video conferencing – 14%
  • Dropbox and online backup – 11%
  • Facebook – 0.8% (all social web adds up to 1.1%)
  • YouTube – 3.0% (all online video adds up to 8.9%)
  • Pandora 2.5% (music apps add up to 6.7%)

A deeper dive into the online backup category shows that Dropbox is the most popular online backup application, and within that, the dashboard shows the top client devices that contribute to Dropbox usage. This was eye opening – my laptop is #2 on the list in figure 2, consuming just over 32% of all the wireless network’s Dropbox usage.


Figure 2: Application Details - Dropbox

Figure 2: Application details – Dropbox

Another application consuming large amounts of bandwidth is Windows file sharing. Like many organizations, Meraki uses some file servers that store and allow sharing of files. Note here that the client consuming the most Windows file sharing bandwidth uses 38% of all the Windows file sharing activity.

What should be done if these categories are out of line with expectations or business needs? The answer is simple – use application traffic shaping to throttle undesired applications by enforcing traffic policies at the network edge (at the AP). For example, figure 4 below shows how one rule can govern peer-to-peer and online backup applications, and another rule lets VoIP and video conferencing flow freely across the wireless network.

Traffic Shaping Rules

Figure 3: Traffic shaping rules

Have you looked at your wireless network recently to see what applications are using the most bandwidth? We’d love it if you share with us a little about the most popular applications on your network.

(Original Post at Meraki Blog. For more info about Meraki in South Africa, see www.skyrove.com/meraki)

3G vs Wi-Fi: It’s no longer a battle

We’re often asked about the relevance of public Wi-Fi in the light of ubiquitous 3G connectivity. Why would anyone connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot if 3G is so much simpler?

Until recently, the main argument for using Wi-Fi was that it was cheaper and faster. But with the launch of Cell C’s R149 pm 3G package and the subsequent responses by Vodacom and 8ta, public Wi-Fi has come under severe threat.

In general, Wi-Fi hotspots are still marginally cheaper and marginally faster than 3G, but it comes at the cost of mobility and more irritatingly, the need to type in user credentials when connecting. Typing in usernames and (oft forgotten) passwords is generally a schlep, but it’s made worse when you’re having to type them in on a mobile phone.

So what do we do? Enter automated logins! Skyrove has been trialing automated logins using Facebook accounts and other methods for a while now, but these still involve some clicking about, occasionally entering user details or installing an app on your phone.

The holy grail, of course, would be to have your phone automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks without you having to interact with it at all. If you’re at a hotel, airport, train station, restaurant or Greenmarket Square, your phone should connect to the Wi-Fi network without any fuss. If you are driving between places, your phone should hop back onto the the 3G network.

Well, this is finally becoming a reality. The global roaming company iPass announced their Open Mobile Exchange program for mobile network operators this week. The key success factor, in my opinion, is that rather than focusing on the 3G-to-WiFi handover technology alone, iPass can offer operators access to a 140,000+ hotspots worldwide and are leading the charge to make it happen.

Skyrove is a member of the iPass network, so if your mobile operator signs up with iPass, you’ll get easy, zero-click, fast internet access at 700 of our hotspots nationwide!

Let’s hope @vodacom, @MTNSouthAfrica and @CellC get going with this pronto!


p.s. GigaOM has a great write-up here

Skyrove – Now up to 66% cheaper

As of today, Skyrove is simplifying its pricing model and reducing prices at more than 800 hotspots nationwide.

Previously, different Skyrove hotspots would charge a different rate per megabyte depending on its location. So you could be paying 30c/MB at your home but 60c/MB when travelling.

We felt this was confusing and inconsistent, so we decided to make things simpler and cheaper.

In future, instead of buying credits and then paying different rates at different hotspots, you are now able to buy megabytes in bundles that can be used at any Skyrove hotspot.

Megabytes can now be purchased in one of the following three bundles:

R500 2500 MB 20c / MB
R250 1000 MB 25c / MB
R120 400 MB 30c / MB
R40 100 MB 40c / MB

If you have any existing credit with Skyrove this will be converted to Megabytes based on the rate of the last hotspot you used, so you will not lose any credits because of the price change.

As before, Megabytes you buy with Skyrove will never expire and can be used at more than 800 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide. See http://map.skyrove.com for our Hotspot locations.

Please note that the above pricing bundles do not apply if you are using a 3rd party, such as Skype, to connect to a Skyrove Wi-Fi hotspot.

For a pricing comparison, see the mybroadband article here

Skyrove and Skype offer free Wi-Fi across South Africa over holiday period

Holidaymakers will be able to take advantage of free Wi-Fi access at over 650
Skyrove hotspots across South Africa this December as part of a deepening
relationship between the company and Skype.

National Wi-Fi hotspot provider, Skyrove, formalised a relationship with Skype,
a communications software company, in October this year which allows Skyrove
hotspot users to buy Internet access using their Skype account and Skype Credit.

The ten-day promotion of Skype Access will run from 0000 SAST on December
22nd, 2010 to 23:59 SAST on January 1st, 2011.

“We are delighted that we are able to introduce our Wi-Fi access to the public
during this period. Both consumers based in South Africa and those visiting will
be able to make use of the offer to reach out to their families around the world.
This is also a time when many people are travelling and rely on remote access to
keep tabs on work,” explains Henk Kleynhans, MD of Skyrove.

The only requirement is that users have the latest version of Skype on their
machines, which will automatically prompt users to connect to the Skyrove
network via Skype Access.

The ten-day free offer will allow users to experience the regular Skype Access
feature which allows them to make use of their Skype Credit to access Wi-Fi
at Skyrove hotspots around the country. This is particularly useful for people
who make use of Skype on a regular basis – including South Africa’s growing
international visitors.

The deal with Skyrove expands the footprint of Skype Access, which can be found
in over 200,000 hotspots around the globe, making it simple and cost effective to
make Skype voice and video calls, surf the web or any other online activities.

For Skyrove, the offer means fast, simple and affordable access to a greater
number of users.

For more details on where they can find Skyrove hotspots, consumers can visit
www.skyrove.com and click on the Find a Hotspot button at the top of the page.

70% of mobile data in Korea is delivered over Wi-Fi

He says that only 10% of data transfer is through 3G networks, 70% coming through wi-fi – which is not that surprising when you consider the number of hotspots in South Korea’s urban areas.

from this BBC article

History of the Internet – Video

Great video about the history of the internet. Essential viewing for anyone working in the tech/media space.


History of the Internet from Melih Bilgil on Vimeo.

10 Dos and Don’ts of Conference and Event Wi-Fi

Skyrove recently provided Wi-Fi access at G South Africa, Google’s first big conference in Cape Town.

Google’s requirement was broadband speed internet access for 500 delegates across 2 conference rooms. The first day of the conference was aimed at software developers and CS students (Android, AppEngine, Maps, GWT etc) while Day 2 was for Business & Marketing folks.

Besides for watching our network traffic and connections closely, all of our technicians were also monitoring, and replying to, Twitter for comments about the Wi-Fi (by searching Twitter for “#gsouthafrica WiFi”)

There were 48 positive tweets & retweets about the Wi-Fi and 8 negative ones by 3 different people. Not a great ratio, but then you’d find that, like working sound and lighting, people expect Wi-Fi to “just work” and are seldom amazed by it.

So we were glad to see some really positive ones:

Not everything was plain sailing though, and on the first day we were scurrying around moving load from one backhaul connection to another. After fixing some backhaul problems, on Day 2 we had 550 connected devices, with data usage double what it was on Day 1 and not a single negative tweet.

Conference & Event Wi-Fi is tough and many network operators underestimate what will be required. In 2008 Wi-Fi at Le Web failed spectacularly, despite Swisscom charging 100,000 Euros. (See Michael Arrington’s TechCrunch post on the Wi-Fi failure)

1. Do: Communicate with speakers and delegates

Find out as much as you can about the speakers’ presentations before they go on stage. It’s becoming more and more common for speakers to stream content directly from YouTube or do live demos of Web 2.0 applications.

Also make sure you remain calm and courteous when there are problems. I made the mistake of trying to explain the importance of the integrity of the network to speakers who just urgently needed speedy connectivity. Tell them firstly that you will fix their problems. Then try to ascertain quickly what exactly the problem is and whether it’s isolated. (Remember, someone under pressure having a problem will almost always tell you that everyone is having a problem… you need to ascertain this for yourself)

Also make sure delegates get any passwords as part of their handout. Best way is an insert into nametags if possible.

2. Do: Dedicated Access for speakers on a physically separate network.

We had two Speaker Wi-Fi networks, one virtual and one on its own ADSL circuit. On Day One we had problems with our ADSL modems struggling under the load of 450 people which adversely affected the speaker virtual network.

3. Don’t: Use Splash / Login Pages

We had a simple Splash Page to welcome people to the Wi-Fi network and explain that some services were shaped and what they should do if they needed help. This was simply a barrier and in many cases people wouldn’t see the splash page if they tried to access the internet without first starting up a browser.

4. Do: Use the right equipment

We used two types of equipment, Meraki MR14 ($800) 802.11n routers which could cater for a 100+ users each and Ubiquiti Rocket M (~$250) devices as our backup solution. The Meraki routers worked beautifully, and we only needed to use a single Rocket M device to get more coverage. Meraki enabled us to have multiple SSIDs, each with separate speed limits and shaping policies. However, we couldn’t limit the upstream bandwidth with the Merakis, which meant the buffers on our modems overflowed and had to be frequently reset until we replaced them with better modems.

The really useful feature of Meraki was that we could clearly see which devices, and which applications, were using the most bandwidth. All of this was through a user-friendly web interface and changes could be made rapidly through this without remotely logging into the devices individually.

We also added some features to the Rocket M firmware using the AirOS SDK that enabled us to get more insights about user behaviour, but not nearly as much as Meraki could give us out of the box.

The Meraki devices also did Channel Spreading and the Cloud Controller would reduce radio power on APs they caused interference with each other. Combined with MIMO, beamforming and spatial multiplexing meant that we never had problems with people’s devices connecting to the Wi-Fi network.

5. Do: Proper Backhaul

We spent a lot of time and money planning the the Wi-Fi network to ensure we could have hundreds of devices online simultaneously. But whereas we had spent about $8,000 on Wi-Fi equipment, we only spent $150 on ADSL modems. They were cheap & nasty and ultimately fell over.

The biggest challenge with conference Wi-Fi is proper backhaul. We’ve had conferences where our upstream provider would change between satellite & fibre and back again without any warning. We’d suddenly get major latencies and, having hundreds of people online already, it’s very difficult to troubleshoot as you can’t bring down the entire network for a test.

It’s hard to convey the difficulty and expense of this to event organisers. For many people, internet is a utility like electricity or water and it’s expected to just work. You also have very little possibility of fixing a backhaul problem on the day of the conference, so it’s crucial to plan this weeks in advance. And always have a fallback solution that can cater for the most critical needs.

6. Don’t: Underestimate Costs

There’s a reluctance to spend money on conference Wi-Fi because of it’s “temporary” nature. But let me put it this way: It’s tougher to set up a network for 500 conference attendees than it is to set up a network for a company with 500 employees. With the latter, you can set clear and strict policies and often control the network down to the device level. You typically have days to build a company network, as opposed to hours.

And you also don’t risk the company’s employees tweeting every time Facebook takes too long to load, which has a very hard cost to your brand, especially at popular conferences.

7. Do: Test, Test, Test

t’s common to do a bunch of quick Wi-Fi signal & throughput tests. But what’s really necessary is to test every type of application that may be used on the day. Set up a few computers to run BitTorrents and large file-downloads and see if the net is still usable.

These are simple tests and won’t give you the most comprehensive results, but it will help you eliminate some basic problems.

8. Do: Prepare!

Before committing to doing the conference, do a proper site survey of the location. Are there enough powerpoints? Where can you terminate backhaul? Is there a location where your engineers can work from and observe what is happening on stage as well as the network? Is the ADSL Exchange in the area known to give problems? Can you use 3G as a backup?

9. Don’t: EVER install a solution for a venue and say you can remotely support it.

Even though this is theoretically possible, in reality, you simply won’t know what the speakers or delegates might throw at you. We made this mistake once. Besides for things going wrong while we weren’t there, we also gave up an opportunity to charge the conference organisers for our time, who were willing to pay.

10. Don’t: Undercharge!

I don’t know of any Audio-Visual companies who do free AV (sound, screens, lighting) or any caterers who give free food for conferences. Yet, because free Wi-Fi has become so pervasive at coffeeshops, there seems to be the perception that Wi-Fi is something cheap and easy. It’s not. If you don’t charge, you are less likely to have your best engineers to work on it and you are less likely to buy the equipment that you should be using.

Compare your rates with other conference costs (caterers, AV, venue) and look at the expertise required. Charging 100,000 EUR for 1,700 people is not completely out of whack. You may not be able to charge as much as you could for setting up a corporate network, but don’t undercharge either.

There are often sponsorship opportunities and exhibition space available, usually at a 2:1 ratio, which is good, but if you go in with cheap Wi-Fi that doesn’t work, you will only damage your brand.

Skype & Skyrove team up to offer FREE Wi-Fi across South Africa

A few weeks ago, we signed a deal with Skype to enable anyone with a Skype account to connect to any Skyrove Wi-Fi hotspot using their Skype account and SkypeOut credits.

If any user fires up Skype when at a Skyrove hotspot, the Skype software will ask them if they want to use their Skype credits to connect to the Internet.

The service is aimed mainly at foreign visitors to SA who want to reduce their exposure to high cell phone roaming charges. However, South Africans will also be able to use the service where billing is time-based, not usage-based.

Consumers can now use any Skyrove Wi-Fi hotspot to make free Skype-to-Skype calls, or dial out to network operators’ numbers at Skype’s published rates.

The integration has now gone live and in celebration Skype are offering all Skype users FREE Wi-Fi access at all Skyrove Wi-Fi hotspots from the Monday, 8th November to Sunday, 14th November.

Skyrove Video of the Week – What do you think?

We’ve just implemented a Skyrove Video of the Week section on the Skyrove Welcome Page (the page you see once you’re logged in).

The very first video is Trevor Noah’s hilarious (and now famous) act complaining about cellphone companies in South Africa.

New Skyrove Welcome Page

New Skyrove Welcome Page

Please let us know what you think about it. Do you like it? Are there any other features you would like to see on your Welcome Page?

p.s. The video won’t download until you hit the Play button (so no extra charges for the features)

The Read/Write Web as seen through Wi-Fi Hotspot Usage

The graph below depicts uploads vs downloads at Skyrove Wi-Fi hotspots over the past 3 years. As you can see, both have grown, but downloads have grown much faster than uploads.

This is a bit surprizing.

Just about everybody has a digital camera now and laptops have built-in webcams. I’d expect people to be uploading more photos & videos to Flickr and Facebook and to spend more time video calling each other on Skype.

Perhaps there’s an exponential relationship somewhere? I.e. every 100 KB photo uploaded is viewed 4 times, and thus 400 KB is downloaded? I surely hope that this is the case and that we’re not just turning into internet couch potatoes!