BGAN – Mobile Photo Upload for Pros

December 23, 2011

Inmarsat’s BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) satellite broadband is the choice for pro photographers who need to distribute or back-up their photo files when on the move.

I was reading Matt Dunham’s review of the year over at the BBC website and was interested by his use of satellite broadband to provide him with a reliable means of sending photos back to the office.

When you’re out reporting on major news events you need to get your photos/video back to the office as quickly as possible so they are ready for print and backed-up. If you don’t have access to a fixed or wi-fi broadband you could try and use a mobile network.

There’s two problems with standard terrestrial mobile networks, whether 3G or 4G, that means they can’t always be relied upon:

  • Coverage. Good mobile data coverage is pretty rare outside of urban or busy commuter areas. You are unlikely to get a reliable data service in the countryside, even in Europe or North America.
  • Contention. Even if 3G/4G is available in an area, it can quickly become overloaded. This may occur at just the time you have the most critical need to upload your photos! Large events with crowds of people, emergencies or big news stories will mean a lot of people making phone calls and uploading iPhone snapshots. This could result in you being unable to maintain even a low data rate for any length of time.

Satellite broadband like BGAN has better than 99.9% coverage of the entire Earth.

Typical upload speeds are up to 512Kbps. Ok, that’s not much compared with even basic DSL, but if you’re lucky it means you could send a few JPGs of magazine quality per minute.

You won’t find BGAN at the Carphone Warehouse. A number of specialist companies supply terminals and access plans on behalf of Inmarsat (who runs the satellites and services). You’d be paying $39 per month ‘line rental’ plus around $6 per megabyte of data, which is about five-times more expensive then using your 3G service abroad.

But when you need reliable mobile broadband, anywhere, BGAN is one of the few choices available to you.

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