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Who or what is BGAN?

BGAN is short for "Broadband Global Area Network". It is comprised of a network of three satellites owned and operated by Inmarsat. These three satellites are in stationary orbit around the planet so that no matter where you are, you may always connect with one of the satellites (the exception is for the extreme polar regions of the planet). Inmarsat has been a leader of global satellite communications services for over 30 years, and they license several manufactures to develop "BGAN Terminals" that communicate with any of the orbiting Inmarsat satellites.

Where does BGAN work?

Here is a global Map of the BGAN Coverage Area. If you are within the colored area, you can be connected. The closer you are to the edge of the coverage area, the lower on the horizon the satellite will be. With Ground Control's BGAN service, you may connect to any of the three BGAN satellites without any modification to your service plan, software, or hardware. If you can see a BGAN satellite, you can connect.

How Fast is BGAN?

BGAN has different Internet speeds depending on the kind of terminal used. Testing in on a Hughes 9201 showed speeds between 300 to 420Kbps in both directions. Latency, or ping times over the BGAN network are between 900 and 1700 milliseconds. (Actual ping test was on a BGAN located in California pinging a California website that showed a 950 milliseconds ping time in May, 2011).

How does the telephone service work?

Another helpful feature of BGAN terminals is excellent voice calling. Each terminal (or sim card in the terminal) is assigned two unique telephone numbers, one for phone, and the other for a fax line. Any standard phone may connect to a BGAN terminal, and we recommend using phones that do not require external power to operate. Phone connected to a BGAN terminal act as a normal phone that displays caller ID and a dial tone.

How does the Fax service work?

BGAN Fax uses the group 3 standard and has shown to work without issue on several FAX machines. Faxing service is by default turned off, unless requested on activation, or during service. There is no additional costs for activating FAX service. Making or receiving faxes is just as easy as making calls. 

Can anyone point the terminal?

Yes. The great thing about BGAN terminals they can see the BGAN satellite 10 to 50 degrees before they are aiming directly at it. This makes pointing a breeze since satellites are easily found. They all have an audible beeping that raises in frequency when the satellite is found. Simply position the BGAN to attain the highest frequency possible and press the registration button (which is different for each terminal). There is also software that may install on a laptop called "BGAN Launchpad" that can help with aiming and registration. When you run the Launchpad software, it will communicate with any BGAN, and displays elevation and compass heading of the closest BGAN satellite (once GPS has been found). This can take out much of the guesswork of pointing a system. Most BGAN terminals have a built in compass so finding the correct direction is not difficult. Pointing normally takes between 1 to 3 minutes.

What is the difference between BGAN Terminals and Mobile Satellite Dishes?

BGAN terminals are extremely portable and cost less than the satellite dish systems. They can be carried in a regular sized laptop case and connect anywhere for high speed Internet, phone and faxing. The bigger mobile satellite dishes weigh between 75 to 200 lbs and need to be mounted on a vehicle roof, or crated in a flyaway case. Transmitting data over a BGAN terminal is more expensive than a satellite dish system, but if you need portable high speed access, BGAN is by far the best solution.

Will the BGAN terminal work inside a building?

Yes, but the signal strength may be slightly reduced. Also, the BGAN satellite could be fairly high in the sky, so it could be impossible to have line-of-sight with the satellite. This is the reason we recommend purchasing a wireless BGAN terminal so that it can be placed outside, and connectivity can be inside (up to 100' from the terminal). If a BGAN terminal is inside, it will need to be placed close to the window to acquire GPS information. You do have the option of acquiring GPS with the system outside, and then moving the terminal inside to a position where it can obtain a sufficient signal strength from the orbiting (geostationary) satellite.

Can the system be mounted on a building?

Yes. Many companies in remote regions mount the system to a wall using either an external antenna, or a mounting kit. Most BGAN terminals can be mounted outside. Ground Control recommends the Wideye Ranger or the Hughes 9201.

How much power does the BGAN system use?

All BGAN terminals (except in-motion vehicle terminals) run off rechargeable batteries, or AC 100 to 240 VAC using an AC/DC power adapter. They also run from a 12 or 24 DC vehicle power ports. While idle, battery levels will last for approximately 36 hours with all terminals. If transmitting or receiving, power requirements are higher and battery power will be expended at a faster rate. However, normal usage has far more idle time than actual transmitting usage. You may consider a BGAN terminal much the same way a cell phone needs to be recharged from time to time, but does not need to be plugged in for usage. Also, if power is a concern, disable the wireless options and connect via Ethernet to conserve power. The 9201 and 9202 BGAN terminals use about 18 Watts of power when transmitting and 8 watts when idle making it a very easy system to use with a solar recharging system.

How do BGAN In-Motion systems work?

In-Motion BGAN terminals have a domed antennas that mount on any roof (normally magnetically). When the BGAN controller is plugged into a 12V or 24 volt power source, the antenna will automatically track and lock on satellite. In-vehicle connections are by Ethernet and some terminals have wireless access so that anyone with any wireless device in, or around the vehicle may connect without using cables. For those on the edge of the BGAN coverage map, trees and mountains may become a factor from having a line-of-sight to the satellite, since the satellite will be lower on the horizon, and service may be irregular. Service plans for in-motion BGAN systems are identical to other BGAN services offered at Ground Control.

Can I Stream Live Video over the system?

Yes, BGAN is a very effective solution for those wishing to cover live events and stream video that need portability. CNN won an award in September of 2007 for using BGAN 9201 systems for live broadcasts in Iraq. The Hughes 9201 offers Streaming committed information rates (CIR) of 32, 64, 128, 256 & 450 Kbps, which means that no one else shares with your speed when you are connected so your speeds are predictable and your transmission will not be stalled, at least for the satellite link portion of the connection. Streaming services are selected using using the BGAN Launchpad at the time you connect your BGAN terminal.The 450kbps streams excellent for high-quality video.

Will it work with both Mac and PC?

Yes, both Windows and Macintosh users may use BGAN launchpad software. A useful trick is to configure the terminal to automatically "register" and opening up a "data" session after you point the terminal, a process which will eliminate the need to run the Launchpad software from a computer. Otherwise, only one computer needs to run the Launchpad software to make a data connection.

Can I get a Static/Public IP address for my BGAN?

Yes. A single Public IP address (aka Static IP) is available for BGAN Sim Cards and it will stay static no matter which of the three Inmarsat satellite you connect with. This is perfect for high security applications linked to a corporate network such as a VPN that configures to only one Static IP connections.

How Do I Keep My Computer Programs From Transferring Data Automatically?

Since BGAN usage is metered, you will want to turn off programs that auto-update such as Windows Update. We've developed this guide here to help you configure a computer so that it can reduce or eliminate unwanted data transferring.

How does the Wireless Access Point work?

Some BGAN terminals have integrated wireless systems. By default, wireless access is disabled, so the first time connecting, you use an Ethernet cable to configure the wireless parameters. All terminals have WEP security and some have MAC filtering to keep your connection secure.

The Explorer Terminals can use bluetooth data access with a range of 100 feet, and by default, it is disabled until enabled by the owner. We recommend using a wireless router for multi-computer connectivity if you are not familiar with Bluetooth.

Enabling the wireless on BGAN terminals does require extra power, so if you need to run off battery for an extended period of time, it is better to disable the wireless and run an Ethernet cable between the terminal and the computer.

How does weather affect the terminal's ability to connect?

BGAN terminals use the "L- band" radio frequency, a low frequency that is much less susceptible to rain fade than much larger satellite dish systems.

Can I connect to the BGAN network anywhere in the world?

Yes, and many are doing just this. With the included universal power adapters, you can plug most systems in to available AC power sources to recharge the onboard batteries.

Can I use BGAN service on a boat or vessel?

The BGAN Explorer models (300 and 500) have shown to work well on a boat at anchor that has limited rocking and swinging. If you are on the open ocean, BGAN systems will most likely not operate. You must be on an Island, or at port. For open ocean use, Inmarsat has created FleetBroadband which uses the same BGAN network, but deploys sea worthy terminals for connectivity. If you try using any portable BGAN terminals while moving on the open sea, Inmarsat (the owning company) may suspend service. Also, BGAN terminals must be stationary in order to transmit (unless you have an in-motion BGAN terminal). If the vessel is on waterways (and not in the open ocean), we recommend considering a BGAN in-motion system.