Inmarsat brings its BGAN to the Middle East

Inmarsat has launched its Broadband Global Area Network, simultaneously providing both voice and data services over its I-4 satellite which was launched in March.

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By  Alex Ritman Published  December 7, 2005

Global satellite communications provider Inmarsat has launched its Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN), bringing the service to the Middle East first. BGAN provides both voice and data services simultaneously at speeds of up to 500Kbps through portable terminals smaller than a laptop. “It was a pragmatic decision to come to launch in the Middle East first,” says CEO Andrew Sukawaty. “There’s more business per square kilometre in the Middle East than anywhere else in the world. So for our existing business, we can say there’s a good opportunity here.” In preparation for the BGAN launch Inmarsat has been readying its I-4 satellite, which was launched in March. “This satellite serves Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. But the actual on-the-ground launches we’re doing are happening first in the Middle East, because we have a huge network of distributors here who are already selling our services,” says Sukawaty, adding that with the addition of the second I-4 satellite covering the Americas launched last month, BGAN will cover 98% of the world’s population. Commercial services began moving onto the new I-4 satellite in June, migrating existing services such as the regional BGAN. “Terminals for the new BGAN are arriving at distributors this week, and we’ve announced that there have been 15,000 ordered for delivery for six months globally. This is a huge number,” says Sukawaty. Inmarsat has signed up with two terminal manufacturers, Nera, and Thrane & Thrane, and products from these suppliers are available in the region now. Terminals from Hughes and Addvalue Communications should be ready in the new year, according to Sukawaty. To access Inmarsat’s new BGAN services, users have to sign up with one of its distributors. “We sell purely wholesale, so you have to go to one of our distribution partners or service providers. We have a global network of 440 selling agents in 180 countries,” says Sukawaty. These agents are responsible for the billing of the BGAN services, but Inmarsat has given a guidance global tariff of US$1 per minute for landline phone calls and US$5-7 per MB of data, which include the distributors mark-up.

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