Article | 03 February 2023

Network congestion: causes, impact and prevention

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Written by
Tim Patrick, Pre-Sales & Product Manager The Netherlands

Network congestion has always been a source of frustration - for individuals and businesses alike. But for organisations, its impact can become a make-or-break situation. Imagine the internet goes down just in time to stop a payment transaction from going through. Will the customer wait?

Situations like these have organisations scrambling around in search of a network solution that can deliver robust connectivity for peak levels of traffic - without disruption. Often, they shy away from cellular-based networks believing these may be less reliable and more sensitive to congestion. We’ve all been there –no connection on our phone just when we need it most.

But businesses with the right network solution need not be afraid of what could happen to their wireless WAN on a particularly busy day. The why and how is what we’ll cover in this article. But first:

What is network congestion?

Network congestion occurs when traffic over a particular network is at such high levels that it results in a decrease in the quality of service. This can show itself in the form of lower speeds, dropped connections, higher latency, packet loss, increased jitter or other general performance degradation.

Often, network congestion is a temporary issue, but that doesn’t mean its impact can’t be hugely damaging for businesses. Coming back to our previous example, if network congestion causes a retailer to miss out on sales, it could mean the loss of significant amounts of revenue. Indeed, retail sites are often built in areas of high-foot-traffic - commercial locations that can experience extremely high levels of network traffic. If this traffic causes POS (Point Of Sale) systems to stop working, the business impact can be devastating.

What causes network congestion?

There are several causes of network congestion, but when it comes to cellular-based networks for businesses, the most common cause is an unusually high level of traffic.

Traffic surges can cause networks to become clogged, slowing or even disabling them entirely. These traffic surges could be because of a music concert, sporting event, or even a more malicious cause like a DDoS attack. Whatever the reason, when networks become inundated with more users than they can handle, congestion occurs.

How to prevent network congestion

Wired or wireless, having the right solution in place can get your company to thrive even during high congestion periods.

Firstly, ensure your contracted service is capable of managing your local network needs (don’t try to run your critical business infrastructure and unrestricted guest Wi-Fi over the same cheap consumer broadband link, for example). For wireless WAN, choosing a dual-SIM, high-performance, enterprise-grade service can certainly help businesses to ease the severity of disruptions to their network.

Putting this to the test

At Blue Wireless, we recently conducted some tests to prove that network congestion, while sometimes unavoidable, can be managed. The objective was to see the performance of our service in crowded environments where you might reasonably expect network congestion to affect cell towers, such as during concerts or football matches.

Tests were at different dates and times to investigate how our service responded in a congested environment. We found that our service remained stable, with no packet loss visible, even during a nearby event with more than 50,000 people in attendance.

Our enterprise-grade managed service (powered by Cradlepoint routers) comes equipped with advanced features to allow businesses to prioritise specific devices and applications within their local network. We leveraged these features to minimise the impact of congestion in the service and deliver the required bandwidth to the customer. Even during our tests where bespoke configurations were disabled, the service remained stable during the times of peak traffic on the towers, a testament to how well mobile network operators have built their networks.

Solutions incorporating dual SIM (and network), enterprise-grade hardware, and a fully managed service wrap, like those provided by Blue Wireless, deliver robust, reliable services, including in-built network redundancy. This allows them to seamlessly switch to the best-available connection. If required, Blue Wireless may advise you to add external antennas, which can be especially useful for connecting to a tower that may be further away from your location but less susceptible to periods of excessive network congestion, such as a tower in the opposite direction to a nearby sports arena.

Gain visibility into your network

You can’t fix what you can’t see. Having network visibility through network management tools (such as NetCloud, which is included with all Cradlepoint devices) will help you manage and achieve performance by:

  • Identifying what may be causing bottlenecks in your network, optimising, and saying goodbye to congestion
  • Increasing bandwidth if needed
  • Prioritising traffic of critical applications to avoid disruption to key operations

When working with Blue Wireless, you’ll gain access to a fully managed wireless solution that won’t let you down during periods of peak demand. With our experts’ advice, contracted SLAs on bandwidth and availability, and 24/7 global support, you can rest assured that network congestion won’t hold you back.

Talk to

Tim Patrick, Pre-Sales & Product Manager

Let's get your wireless journey started. I am happy to walk you through the best wireless solutions for your business, whichever the use case.

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