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).     Inmarsat video conferencing at 350 kbps using a $6.95/MB rate costs $1042 per hour.


*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.