BGAN satellite service to offer simultaneous voice and data

A U.K.-based company has launched its mobile broadband satellite service to North and South America, allowing the use of data and voice simultaneously almost anywhere in the world.

Powered by Inmarsat, the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) uses Inmarsat-4 (I-4) satellites, which are in orbit over Brazil and the Indian Ocean. BGAN is accessible across 85 per cent of the world’s landmass and to 98 per cent of the population. The service allows mobile users to connect to corporate networks, e-mail and the Internet at speeds of up to 492 Kbps per device and make telephone calls at the same time.

“This is the first mobile communication service of any kind to do so,” said Drew Brandy, business development manager at Inmarsat in a Webcast of the announcement. “(BGAN) lets you set up a broadband office in minutes.”

Inmarsat has been working with customers over the past 18 months on a beta test project for the BGAN network. Customer verticals include the media, military, oil and gas and aid. CNN, BBC and CBC are currently using BGAN. The Globe and Mail is a BGAN rental customer of Roadpost, which provides the satellite service. Inmarsat is also looking at adapting its solution to other sectors including construction, insurance, retail, finance and civil government.

This level of availability will help businesses address what Wesley Robb, product manager for Roadpost, a satellite service provider, says is the number one issue for remote workers — coverage.

“Users require connectivity when and where they need it,” he said.

The network can also be redeployed in real-time to areas of high service demand. Another key issue for remote workers is portability, said Robb.

“Globalization means that individuals are traveling across the country or around the world from one day to the next,” he said. “They need a solution that they can bring with them when they travel.”

In the past, Robb said high bandwidth satellite equipment was bulky or sent prior or after users had arrived and couldn’t be moved from one location to the next easily.

Users can choose from three terminals: WorldPro 1000, Explorer 600 and HNS 9201, which can be connected to their devices via cable, Ethernet or Bluetooth wireless. To access the network, users can download Inmarsat’s software tool that provides a graphical interface from which they can choose what function they want.

Many remote workers are using these devices in rugged environments and in countries where terrestrial networks are unreliable, making reliability of the network another key issue, said Robb. Other parts of the globe such as Central America, Africa and Western Europe don’t have the same infrastructure as North America. Remote areas in North America are often operating on antiquated technology.

To ensure reliability, the satellite looks for other channels when it reaches 80 per cent capacity, said Brandy.

“The system prevents voice and data services from contending with one another for capacity,” he said.


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