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Holding down usage over RBGAN and BGAN – 11 tips for controlling your costs

By Eric Hoenigmann, Associate Director of Surgance, Inc. and Mike Bizub of Bizub Communications

Updated August 25, 2010

Editor's note: This article was drafted by Eric Hoenigmann using information provided by Mike Bizub of Bizub Communications on ways to reduce unnecessary and unexpected usage with the BGAN satellite terminals. These tips were so useful that we asked and received permission to publish them here.

Too many users have learned the hard way that their friendly computer is quietly busy when online and can send buckets of data over the Internet when logged in on a satellite connection, running up big bills.

The HumaniNet team thanks both Eric and Mike for their outstanding research and cooperation! - Gregg Swanson.

Following the tips below, you can stay ‘in touch’ without driving up your satellite usage costs:
1. USE Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, or other ‘client-based’ email application (that is installed on your PC) to send and receive e-mail.
2. DO NOT use Webmail to send/receive your can be 10 to 20 times more expensive than using mail software.
3. USE an instant messaging application (Skype or MS Messenger...NOT Yahoo or AOL Instant Messenger) for real-time conversations via TEXT messaging, NOT voice or video.
Yahoo and AOL Instant Messenger often have advertising, which will unnecessarily consume more data transfer.
Voice and video will dramatically drive up the consumption of data transfer...therefore, dramatically increasing your bill...especially a video chat.
4. DO NOT perform Microsoft and other system updates over the BGAN connection...they will drive up the consumption of data transfer...therefore, a very big bill! A typical Microsoft Service Pack update is between 50MB to 120MB (cost = hundreds of dollars).
Through your Windows system’s Control Panel, find the Automatic Updates tool (within Security Center if XP Professional) and turn off ‘Automatic Updates.
When necessary, bring your computer to an establishment with Internet access (coffee shop, internet café, etc) to perform system updates.
5. DO NOT leave your computer unattended while ‘on-the-air’ (online over the satellite network)...especially if browsing the web and having visited an interactive site which refreshes itself at timed intervals—remember each refresh will cost you $$!
6. DO NOT watch/listen to streaming media (video/music/voice) via this will drive up the consumption of data transfer...therefore, dramatically increasing your bill.
7. BEWARE of file downloads!
8. BEWARE of sending large files (ie, photos, graphic files, etc) via e-mail...they will drive up the consumption of data transfer...therefore, high costs.
9. For monthly project or ministry updates, consider sending one email to a trusted party at your home office who can then forward your e-mail to your distribution list. When the recipients hit Reply to tell you how much they liked your report, it will go to your trusted agent, not to your satellite connection.
10. Consider configuring your default email signature with a message such as this one (used by one of our RBGAN field partners in a remote area):

"Since we are using e-mail via satellite, please do not send attachments,
pictures, or forwarded messages. Please do not include our message in your
reply. If possible, using plain text also helps cut the costs. Thanks!"
11. Finally, DO NOT send documents that use Word or other word processing applications unless you have to. Simply type or copy your document onto Notepad, which can be copied into the body of the email or sent as a low-kilobyte attachment. Notepad documents are much smaller than Word docs. Remember to tell this to your correspondents also – it costs as much to receive Word files as to send them.

Here are a few estimates of what it will cost to transmit information with this service (Note: all prices in US dollars, using typical per-megabyte rates – but not including the monthly fee):
A 500-word text-only email (5KB): ~ $0.03
A simple webpage (25KB): ~ $0.15
A two-page Word document: ~ $0.27
2-page text-only word doc (44KB) attached to a text-only e-mail with 260 words (1,669 characters): ~ $0.38
A photo taken with a three mega-pixel digital camera: ~ $3.20

Instant Messaging will provide more real-time communication at an affordable rate
be sure to use an instant messaging service that is text only, such as Windows Messenger or Skype—but be sure only to utilize the text chat, NOT the video or voice chat.

Service providers offer a variety of ways to control usage, including:

Configuring traffic monitoring and alerts for automatic notification once you’ve reached a pre-defined level of consumption.
Configuring limits to a pre-defined level of megabyte usage.

Editor's note: The last two features, setting up usage level notifications and limits, is offered by most service providers. We strongly recommend that BGAN users implement notifications and limits, and periodically review their usage. Know how to contact tech support from the field in case you need assistance with this.

HumaniNet also suggests that BGAN users take a look at the UUPlus service. We can direct you to additional articles and resources for these terminals and for satphones also. Contact with your name, organization, name of service provider, and location of the terminal or satphone.

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