the Next Step Toward Portable Broadband
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by Gregg Swanson
Over the past year, HumaniNet
has assisted over 20 humanitarian and missionary organizations
procuring and testing a new way to communicate from remote areas:
the Regional Broadband Global Area Network, or RBGAN, introduced
This satellite terminal (also
called a satellite modem) makes it possible to get Internet
access, within the coverage
at a speed of 144 kilobits per second, more than twice that of
a standard dialup connection. One user in Africa described it
as “lightning fast.” It is pictured here with a laptop
and an Iridium phone:
The terminal weighs only 3.3 pounds, is reasonably rugged, and
is well engineered. It is pictured here, connected to a laptop.
An Iridium phone is shown to the right. To communicate by voice,
a satellite phone such as Iridium is required, since RBGAN transmits
and receives only data.
Reports from the field
RBGAN and VSAT
Tips on Ordering
and Using the RBGAN
Bandwidth Cost Details
The RBGAN coverage area currently includes Western Europe,
the Middle East, Central and South Asia as far east as Bangladesh,
and the northern half of Africa (to include all of West Africa
and as far south as Kenya and northern Congo).
By early 2005, following the launch of new satellites, the
system will cover all global land areas. The expanded system
true broadband connectivity: over 430 kilobits per second.
Reports from the field
In keeping with our mission, HumaniNet
has facilitated purchase and lease of RBGAN terminals for deployment
and missionary teams in Africa, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran.
We have followed up with all users ask about their experience
and system performance.
Here are some reports we have received from field users, all
in remote areas with minimal infrastructure:
- From World Vision,
following their response to the earthquake in Bam, Iran, in
December 2003: “We went into Iran with
our RBGAN satellite terminal, and eventually most of the team
there in Bam was hooked up to that device in order to communicate
not only for media and marketing purposes, but also for management
purposes. The RBGAN was used to send many high-resolution photos
as well as sitreps (situation reports) and other management
reports. We were able to raise significant funds for the disaster
equipment (over $2 million). “
Africa: "The RBGAN continues to work well. In fact,
our colleagues in the nearby major center have experienced
a general phone service disruption this past week and we here
been able to carry on communications as usual."
- From Iraq: “After
installing the software and going up on the roof, within five
minutes I was on the Internet. Wow!
Was that quick and easy. This will be a big help when we’re
without power and on the road at job sites. ”
- From West
Africa: “We have been very pleased with the
billing on the modems. The detail and the relatively low cost
what is not available in country makes it very worth it.”
instant messaging, from West Africa: “We have been
able to use MSN Instant Messenger on the RBGAN modem without
and it really is quite economical in terms of bytes used. We
chatted with our family in Senegal and in the U.S. at the same
One of the surprising things about RBGAN is the value-price
relationship. Until now, data terminals with speeds of 64kbps
cost $6000 and
up. Humanitarian organizations can purchase RBGAN, with accessories
and shipment costs, for less than $1400.
Usage fees are charged by the megabytes
of data transmitted and received – currently less than
$10 per megabyte. There is also a monthly access fee. This
is economical for email messaging
and transfer of medium-sized files, but not for extensive Web
surfing. For example, a 1 kilobyte email costs one cent, and
a 100 kilobyte file costs a dollar (US) to send or receive. For
additional details on bandwidth fees, see our RBGAN
Bandwidth Tips page.
We recently were contacted by a major organization that had
just spent $2500 for a satellite phone, far more than then should
have paid. They now regret that they did not contact HumaniNet
first. Our partnering service providers offer significant discounts
and are experienced in supporting humanitarian field teams.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on pricing
and shipping, as well as suitability for your mission.
In 2005, Inmarsat (the service operator for
RBGAN) will launch additional satellites for global coverage.
The global system
will be known as BGAN, or Broadband Global Area Network. It will
deliver significantly increased bandwidth – an increase
from 144 kbps to 432 kbps (kilobits per second).
For more information, please email us at email@example.com.
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