February 16, 2007

Global Wireless Broadband Launched

by Jan Harris

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Inmarsat, a pioneer of global mobile satellite communications, has launched a satellite broadband service which will offer Internet connectivity to most of the world except for the North and South poles.

Inmarsat has joined with defence company Thales UK, to provide the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service. BGAN provides connection speeds of up to 492Kbps across the globe, with the exception of areas above latitudes of 80 degrees north and below 80 degrees south, which the satellites cannot reach.

The service, which will be fully launched by June, will provide broadband to the parts that broadband currently cannot reach, such as some rural areas or in a Wi-Fi ‘deadzone’ in a city centre. It will connect some of the most remote and challenging environments on the planet.

BGAN has already been used in the US to co-ordinate relief efforts between the police and fire crews when networks have gone down.

The service costs around $1 (51p) per minute for voice calls and $8 (£4.10) per megabyte of data.

To link up to the BGAN network users require a satellite terminal, priced at around £257, which acts as an antenna to communication with the satellites.

The satellite terminal is fitted with a GPS receiver, to pinpoint its exact location. Using GPS, the terminal sends a message to the user’s laptop and then BGAN software on the laptop tells the user where to point the satellite terminal to get the best signal.

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