Users of the satellite Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service are being offered cheaper access to the broadband service from any point on the globe.
The UK’s main reseller of the Inmarsat 4-based service, Tariam Satellite Communications, is now pushing the service on the basis of more competitive costs per megabyte, which it says are as low as under £2 per megabyte for high data volumes, or £3.50 per megabyte for less frequent use.
The BGAN terminal itself - a sort of combined satellite receiver in a box about the size of a laptop weighing 1kg - costs hefty £1,000 and up, but offers significantly lower running costs than rival mobile data services for global roaming, the company claims.
The system typically works with laptops, but is also compatible with a range of PDAs, including the eponymous Blackberry. It can reach broadband-like speed of up to 512k across 85 percent of the world’s surface.
The upfront costs might look unlikely to sell satellite broadband as a mass-market business service, but the company is keen to promote the service as affordable for any company that wants to guarantee connectivity in parts of the world with sub-standard telecoms.
Bandwidth can be bought in guaranteed chunks, which includes the ability to have not only data connectivity but to make phone calls, SMS text messages, faxes, and even an old-style ISDN link if that is required.
"It’s a very sophisticated product and like mobile phones the airtime price you pay will depend on the price plan you select," said Julie Fox of Tariam. “It's great for anyone who travels a lot with work, being able to set up a broadband mobile office in minutes, wherever you are on the planet. It's especially relevant with the current debate on the high rates that the UK mobile networks currently charge,” she said.
The service works on all major continents, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia, North and South America, though not the poles.
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