Reduce Internet Usage on Windows Computers

If you are using a Windows computer with an Inmarsat BGAN or IsatHub, you should attempt to reduce internet usage that is not necessary.   This helps keep your operational cost low and increases the performance of your primarily application.  Keeping internet traffic to a minimum is not typically even a consideration for Windows users.   Most Windows machines use internet access almost continuously for background processes such as updating anti-virus definitions or applying the latest Windows or Java update.  The list of background applications is almost endless.   Now, imagine that you are using an Inmarsat BGAN Class 2 terminal to transmit email or even video conference.   The BGAN terminal provides a data speed 350- 400 kbps (typically) but up to 464 kbps (best case).  This is a relatively limited speed compared to the megabit per second speeds available from terrestrial internet providers available in a typical home or office environment.  Because the data speed is so limited on Inmarsat BGAN, it needs to be completely focused on the primary application and not shared with competing background applications such as downloading the latest Windows update.   Fortunately, simple changes to your Windows configuration can substantially reduce unnecessary internet traffic.  This blog article explains some basic steps that you can take to resolve this problem.

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Reduce Data Traffic on Android Smartphones

A recent survey of American smart phone users found that the average smart phone uses 1.8 GB of mobile data monthly.   In addition to that, the average smart phone uses between 6.8 and 8.9 GB of Wi-Fi data each month.   That means we are consuming about 20 MB during every hour that we are awake.    Wasteful data usage on your Android smartphone may not be of much concern for cellular users with unlimited data plans.   The same cannot be said of users of Inmarsat IsatHub or Inmarsat BGAN satellite terminals which pay by the megabyte for their data traffic.  Fortunately, simple changes to the configuration of your Android smart phone or tablet can reduce its data consumption dramatically.  This blog article provides some practical advice.

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Reduce Data Usage: iOS Smartphones

Do you have an unlimited cellular data plan?  Many cellular users have unlimited or practically unlimited data plans.  This explains why wasteful use of data on smartphones and tablets may not be much of a concern.   Most Inmarsat BGAN users pay by the megabyte of internet access.  For this reason, keeping data costs to a minimum is critically important for BGAN users.  Simple changes to your smartphone's configuration can reduce data usage by unnecessary background programs.  The cost savings can be dramatic.

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What is BGAN HDR?

What is BGAN HDR?

On December 3, 2013,  Inmarsat rolled out its new extremely fast High Data Rate or HDR streaming service.  HDR is supported on several Inmarsat BGAN terminals models including the EXPLORER 710.  Full-channel HDR provides a streaming data rate that is typically 650-700 kbps.  HDR immediately became a critical tool for broadcast media companies operating in frontline news situations in remote areas around the globe.  Inmarsat BGAN HDR is also useful as a back up for broadcasters relying on cellular bonding solutions.  This blog gives a high level overview of HDR.

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Compare iSavi to the EXPLORER 510

Comparison of the new Inmarsat IsatHub service with Inmarsat BGAN

The new Wideye iSavi by Addvalue is the first terminal approved for Inmarsat IsatHub service.  IsatHub is intended for consumer-grade users of satellite broadband.  It is easy to use.  The only cable is for charging.   To call, text or web surf, on your smart phone or tablet, you simply need an app.   Clearly, anyone traveling beyond the reach of conventional cellular service should consider the iSavi.  That said, Inmarsat has a much more powerful mobile broadband satellite service called Inmarsat BGAN.  We suggest that you take a little time to compare the iSavi to the EXPLORER 510.  It costs a little more but you get much higher performance.

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Best satellite hotspot for Africa, Middle East and Australia

Are you planning to hunt or travel in Africa?   Though cellular coverage in Africa has made great strides in recent decades, traveling in remote areas of Africa still requires a satellite phone.  The newest satellite phones are compact portable satellite hotspot devices designed to work with your smart phone or tablet.  You can make phone calls, send texts and even browse the web using a free app.  In a life-threatening emergency, you can send an S.O.S. message with the press of a button.

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Paying Too Much for Inmarsat Broadband?

Inmarsat offers broadband internet services using small portable or vehicular terminals.  These include Inmarsat BGAN,  FleetBroadband (for marine applications), and its new entry-level service called IsatHub.

Paying too much?   What you can't see could be hurting you.

A common complaint by Inmarsat broadband users is that they experience higher usage costs than they originaly expected.  The main reason for this is a lack of awareness of the typical usage patterns of modern computers and tablets.  Notebook computers are configured to use the internet to update their software, check email, browse the web, backup data... all in the background.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or block background traffic while you are using an Inmarsat broadband device.  Upcoming articles on this blog will give some practical examples of how to do this on Windows, Macintosh, iOS and Android platforms.

What is a MB anyway?

A bit is a 0 or a 1.  A byte is 8 bits.  A megabyte (MB) is 1024 x 1024 bytes or 8,388,608 bits.   So, now you know.

Many users are not aware of how many megabytes are consumed by typical activities. Emailing a digital photo might consume between 0.5 MB and 5 MB.  Visiting consumes about 0.25 MB -- before you even search for anything.

Standard IP internet access over Inmarsat is billed by the MB.  A typical rate might be $6.95 per MB.   A class II BGAN terminal, like the Cobham EXPLORER 510 could transmit at 300 kbps (typical).   By the way 300 kbps is 300 x 1024 = 307,200 bits per second.  So, at that rate, you can transmit a MB in 8,388,608 bits / 307,200 bits per second or 27.3 seconds.   That means that at $6.95 per MB you can spend around $15 per minute.   If you are one of those Inmarsat broadband users with higher than expected usage costs, hopefully I now have your attention.

Paying too much for Inmarsat internet access?

Fortunately, there are ways to block unseen background internet usage. There are also ways to control and limit necessary foreground usage.  For example, you can compress web graphics or check email without downloading attachments.

As an Airbus Defense and Space Elite Partner, Outfitter Satellite has the resources and knowledge you need to empower you to reduce your unnecessary Inmarsat traffic.  This article discusses firewalls and compression software.   Future blogs will discuss Best Practices for individual operating systems.

Recommendation #1:  Use Optimized Email Software

SkyFile is one of several free email software packages available to Outfitter Satellite customers.   SkyFile requires a Windows computer.   It includes a powerful compression feature and the ability to review the text of an email before downloading its attachments.  SkyFile also has a web interface that allows email reception via the terrestrial internet when you're not in the field using a BGAN.

If you want to receive email from your regular email account, simply forward it to your SkyFile email address while you are using the BGAN.   To find out how to forward email from one account to another email account Google "forward outlook email" or "forward gmail", etc.

Recommendation #2:  Use a Firewall and Compression Services

The Airbus Terralink Data Manager (TDM) includes a firewall located at the Inmarsat PoP that can control the traffic types being passed.   For example, if you are only interested in using email, one simple configuration of the TDM firewall would be to block all traffic except SkyFile traffic.

The TDM firewall can also whitelist certain IP addresses while blacklisting all others.  This can be useful if limited web browsing is necessary.

The TDM includes web compression and web filtering services that can reduce download costs on graphics by up to 40%.

Finally, the TDM can offer near real-time traffic reports to the user online.  These reports can help the user determine where usage costs are coming from.  That is certainly the first step if you want to avoid paying too much for Inmarsat traffic.

Recommendation #3: Use an Optimizer Wi-Fi Hotspot

The Optimizer HotSpot is a small portable Wi-Fi hotspot with a built-in firewall.  By default, it blocks all traffic except traffic from its associated XGate email and XGate web browser software.

The Optimizer Hotspot does have the disadvantage that you need external power, but it provides extremely tight control.   It virtually eliminates unwanted usage traffic and assures you are not paying too much for Inmarsat internet traffic.

The Optimizer Hotspot has an Ethernet WAN port that is connected to the corresponding port on the BGAN.   Multiple Windows, Macintosh, iPad and Android devices can be simultaneously connected to the Optimizer via Wi-Fi.  Just download free software or a free app.

Xgate's email package has a built-in Fetch capability that pulls new emails off your regular email account so you don't even need to forward your email.

Wait for More Inmarsat Best Practices Articles

Hope this article has given you some ideas on how to keep your Inmarsat broadband costs down.   Please check out our BLOG again for more articles about avoiding paying too much for Inmarsat by configuring your Windows, Macintosh, iOS, or Android device to reduce unnecessary background traffic.  It's easier than you think.

*All rates and prices are provided Valid through December 1,  2015.  Rates and prices are subject to change without notice.


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Inmarsat Video Made Easy

Anyone that has used video conferencing services over Inmarsat realizes it's expensive.  This article does not cover Inmarsat video streaming solutions specifically developed for broadcast quality media.  Instead, the article focuses on practical videoconferencing.

Budget sensitive Inmarsat video solutions that keep usage costs under tight control are available.

History of Inmarsat Video

During the early years of the Iraq War which started in 2003, Outfitter Satellite offered videoconferencing equipment like the Talking Head 2.  It used the ISDN 64 kbps data supplied by an Inmarsat GAN terminal like the Thrane and Thrane Capsat Messenger.  The combined cost of this hardware was around $16,000.  The 64 kbps GAN data cost users around $7 per minute.

The video quality of the Talking Head 2 was poor.  If the news reporter transmitting the story kept their head still and there weren't any large moving objects in the back scene, the quality was decent.   If a large object moved across the screen behind them, the video compression algorithm simply couldn't keep up and everything became a blur.

In 2010, Inmarsat BGAN or Broadband Global Area Network was launched.  Small portable BGAN terminals offered Standard IP data speeds up to 492 kbps.  Specialized ISDN-based products like the Talking Head 2 were no longer necessary.   In fact, software-based solutions using a Windows PC or Macintosh computer could be used.  The BGAN hardware cost was typically around $3000.

In addition to Standard IP data, Streaming IP data with a minimum Quality of Service or QoS is also available.  Various streaming speeds include 128 kbps, 176 kbps, 256 kbps, 384 kbps X-stream and High Data Rate HDR up to 800 kbps.  These services are billed by the minute of connection time and are very expensive.

At your home or office, you probably pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited internet access so  Skype is a great videoconferencing solution.  YouTube or Skype can be used to stream  Inmarsat video but it is an expensive choice.   Skype was designed to maximize sound and video quality by using as much bandwidth as is available.  A class II BGAN terminal, like the Cobham EXPLORER 510, provides typical data speeds of about 350 kbps (2.5 MB per minute).    


*Note: Any prices listed here were accurate as of the time of the first publication of this blog article.  Prices, terms, and conditions are subject to change without notice.

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