Broadband Global Area Network

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What Does Broadband Global Area Network Mean?

Broadband global area network (BGAN) is a global satellite Internet network by satellite communication company Inmarsat. It is designed for low-cost connectivity enabled with voice and data communications. It can be accessed anywhere on the earth’s surface, excluding the poles. It uses a constellation of three geostationary satellites at a time (of the 14 in the system), called I-4, designed to communicate with lightweight, surface-based, portable terminals about the size of a laptop computer.

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Techopedia Explains Broadband Global Area Network

High-end BGAN terminals have downlink speeds of 492 Kbps and upload speeds of 300 to 400 Kbps. However, the latency of 1 to 1.5 seconds round trip for the background IP service is an issue. Streaming services are slightly faster at 800 milliseconds to 1 second. Performance-enhancing proxies, software and transmission control protocol packet accelerators are used to boost performance.

Ground-based terminals have similar capabilities but are built by several manufacturers. The most expensive calls are from cell phones, land line phones and satellite phones. But voice quality is high and this is the fastest global data link available. It is easily set up with no user restrictions, other than cost.

Signal acquisition requires line-of-site with the geostationary satellite and requires the user to have a compass and a general idea of the satellite location. Slowly turning the terminal will soon indicate signal capture, which can be done less than a minute for an experienced user with a good signal.

Some limitations include prohibited use on the open ocean in a moving vessel. Regular terminals also cannot be used on aircraft.

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Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor
Margaret Rouse
Senior Editor

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.