The birth of Broadband for a Mobile Planet

Recent changes to Inmarsat's Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service has seen coverage offered by the satellite network increase by about a third from 99 to 150 countries. Best known until now in the Middle East and Africa, the newly enhanced service now extends to include most of Europe, Asia and Western Australia. The new service, now designated R-BGAN, includes a number of upgrades. Developing Telecoms takes a look at what's new.

Broadband Access

In a standard office environment, broadband access is now taken for granted. In today's highly mobilized commercial world, more and more people spend a significant amount of time away from a central office, making access to essential business information critical.  For those whose jobs take them away to more remote or rural locations, accessing the corporate network or the Internet often means a return to slow dial-up connections, or worse still, no access at all.

With Inmarsat's Broadband Global Area network BGAN service, scheduled for launch by the end of 2005, it will be possible to set up a broadband mobile office in minutes, wherever you are on the planet. The service was premiered at GITEX, Dubai in September 2005 when Inmarsat representatives announced the characteristics that make BGAN the world's first mobile communications service to provide both voice and broadband data connectivity simultaneously through a single, truly portable device on a global basis.

Delivered via the Inmarsat-4 satellites - the world's largest and most sophisticated commercial communications satellites - BGAN will provide much faster data speeds and affordable, mobile broadband services including voice (with all standard GSM features), IP, IP streaming, and ISDN at speeds up to half a megabit per second in a highly portable, easy to use form. With BGAN services, data applications can be accessed at speeds of up to 492kbps while making a phone call, whether in a major city, airport, desert, or on an oil rig!

BGAN will be accessible via a range of small, lightweight satellite terminals, which provide performance options to suit different operational needs. There are five different compact terminals, varying in characteristics and features, which are currently being manufactured and tested by NERA, Add Value, Thrane & Thrane and HNS (Hughes Network Systems). BGAN will extend terrestrial networks and open up a broadband environment for many industry sectors.

Inmarsat R-BGAN goes further

Regional BGAN was recently rebranded as R-BGAN to better reflect its position within the broader BGAN family of services, along with a new range of enhancements announced to the service. R-BGAN is the pioneering and award-winning 1 data service, launched by Inmarsat in 2002, which offers connectivity at up to 144kbps across a secure shared channel.

Initially branded as Regional BGAN, access to the service was confined to a coverage area of about 99 countries. Following the successful migration of the service to the new Inmarsat-4 (I-4) satellite, R-BGAN can now be used in a significantly larger coverage area.  The footprint of R-BGAN now covers Europe, the whole of Africa, the Middle East, most of Asia Pacific and Western Australia, adding nearly 50 countries to the coverage area and extending the service to a total of 150 countries.

Since its launch in the Middle East and Africa, R-BGAN has not only successfully penetrated the region, it has benefited regional customers by offering connectivity anywhere at anytime, especially corporate executives and members of the media who tend to frequently be on the move. As of the end of July 2005, the majority of R-BGAN users have now migrated onto the Inmarsat-4 based service.

The migration also coincides with new pricing packages being offered by Inmarsat's R-BGAN distributors2, which can provide significant reductions in data charges by about 40%.  R-BGAN is charged by the amount of data sent and received, and users can now access a range of different pricing structures - from monthly megabyte allowances, to more flexible options that spread usage over a preferred period.

R-BGAN becomes today the first operational BGAN terminal, and when the full service is launched near the end of the year, end-users across the globe will witness the birth of 'Broadband for a Mobile Planet'.

Keeping people connected

Inmarsat has been providing mobile satellite communications solutions for the last 25 years to various industries on land, at sea, and in the air.  There are currently 14 R-BGAN distributors around the world: BT Broadcast Services, Cerist, Egyptian Space Communications, France Telecom Mobile Satellite Communications, KDDI Msat, MVS Global, Net Africa, Net Iletisim, OTESAT-Maritel, Stratos Global, Telecom Italia, Telenor Satellite Services, Triband Middle East, and Xantic.

The R-BGAN service has won a number of awards since its launch in late 2002.  In 2003, it won the award for Best Network Infrastructure at The Banker's Technology Awards, and received a Highly Commended award in the Best New Service category of the World Communications Awards.  The following year, Inmarsat, Visa and  e-Go Solutions received an Award for Special Achievement from The Banker for their use of R-BGAN in the rapid deployment of a new banking infrastructure in Iraq.

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