By Gregg Swanson
The BGAN mobile satellite terminal has been around now for about 18 months, with a growing number of users reporting high confidence in the system and the Inmarsat broadband network. Recently, we tested the newest of the BGAN terminals, the Sabre I, and were impressed. Known as the Wideye Sabre I, the terminal weighs only 1.6 kg (3.5 pounds) and would easily fit in a backpack: 10 x 6.5 inches (not including the 1.2 inch protruding hinge on the base). It appears to be a sturdy, rugged design, much like the larger Hughes 9201. The Sabre I was designed by a Singapore company, AddValue Technologies.
There are two compelling reasons for looking at the Sabre I:
First, it is an excellent value, priced approximately at the cost of an Iridium satphone.
Second, it has an excellent voice capability, in addition to broadband Internet. The cost is less than 80 cents per minute. You simply plug in a conventional telephone (RJ-11 connection) or use the small handset provided, and dial as you would an international call: 00 + country code + number. It took about 30 - 40 seconds to connect. On our test to land and cell phones, the voice quality was uniformly excellent, better than many cell phone connections. There was very little "lag" or latency, making it easy to converse. The Internet data connection was a bit slower than with the Hughes, which has a larger antenna. We were connected from Portland, Oregon, USA with an elevation to the Inmarsat satellite only 5 degrees above the eastern horizon. Even in light rain, the speed was more than satisfactory. Normal Web pages took 2-4 seconds to load, and a photo-intensive Flickr page took about 10 seconds.
Setup was straightforward, using the Quick Start Guide provided. A complete User Manual was also included in the CD that came with the terminal. The Sabre 1 is simple to understand and operate. There are three ports: power, Ethernet, and the RJ-11 for a phone or handset. The terminal comes with an AC charger, but a DC car charger must be ordered separately. Connecting to a laptop with an Ethernet cable has two advantages: no USB driver to install and keep updated, and you can use up to 200 feet of cable from laptop to BGAN. Upon power up, the Sabre I quickly acquired the GPS location and went into antenna pointing mode. Acquiring the satellite signal was easy with the customary audio tone. When the terminal acquired the signal, it immediately began to register with the network. Within a minute of power up, we could place a call using the handset. A Bluetooth wireless handset is also available.
(Note: this is not Voip, or voice over IP. It is a specialized analog channel for phone calls.) For Internet access, we connected the laptop by Ethernet and used the LaunchPad software The only complication in our test was that a firmware upgrade was required in order to enable the Standard IP connection to the Internet. We downloaded the upgrade from the Inmarsat Web site, installed it using the directions given (15 minutes total) and the Standard IP connection has worked well every time.
The LCD window is a very nice feature, allowing the user to check or change settings and – when the service is introduced – even receive text messages.
Users who are "off the grid" will need to consider solar charging or some other provision for power. The battery is not large, and the spec sheet states "one hour continuous transmission at data rate <= 72kbps." The lithium ion battery will give you three hours in receive only, and (according to specifications) 36 hours in Standby. We have not tested these specs, but will soon. While the Explorer series of BGANs are somewhat lighter and smaller, to date they have been priced higher than the Hughes 9201 (which has integrated WiFi) and much higher than the Sabre I. Users who need to travel light, and those who need to replace their RBGAN by end 2008, should consider this terminal.
For Immediate Release
Mobile Satellite Ventures Awarded Industry-Leading Interference Reduction Patent
Technologies of New Patent Designed to Improve Quality of Service While Increasing Satellite and Terrestrial Capacity
Reston, Va., February 6, 2008 -- Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV) announced today that it has been awarded a new patent by the U.S. Patent Office that protects technologies relating to the reduction of interference, resulting in improved quality of service and increased capacity.
U.S. Patent No. 7,295,807 is entitled “Methods and Systems for Configuring Satellite Antenna Cell Patterns in Response to Terrestrial Use of Satellite Frequencies.”
According to the patent’s inventor, Dr. Peter D. Karabinis, the technologies disclosed are currently being developed for MSV’s next generation satellite-terrestrial 4G network and are expected to result in customer benefits including improved voice quality, higher data rates, and lower costs.
“A satellite system may inadvertently receive interference from another system (terrestrial or satellite) that is authorized to use the same frequencies. This can have a detrimental impact on the quality of service and capacity,” explained Dr. Karabinis, who serves as senior vice president and chief technical officer at MSV. “However, interference tends to be directional; that is, it arrives at a specific angle relative to a desired signal. Exploiting this principle, the patent protects novel techniques of identifying the direction of arrival of interference and responsively modifying the satellite’s antenna pattern to maximally reject the interference,” Dr. Karabinis added.
According to Dr. Karabinis, the techniques included in this patent not only provide increased operational protection for MSV’s space-based network, but also increase capacity for MSV’s ATC service without encumbering satellite operations.
MSV is Redefining Wireless Communications™ through its development of a hybrid satellite-terrestrial communications network, based on MSV’s patented ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) technology. The company expects its next-generation network will provide seamless, transparent and ubiquitous wireless coverage of the United States and Canada to conventional handsets. MSV plans to launch two of the most powerful commercial satellites ever built that will enable this network to support communications in a variety of areas including public safety, homeland security, aviation, transportation and entertainment, by providing a platform for interoperable, user-friendly and feature-rich voice and high-speed data services.
Mobile Satellite Ventures is a joint venture between Mobile Satellite Ventures LP and Mobile Satellite Ventures (Canada) Inc. MSVLP is owned and controlled by SkyTerra Communications, Inc. (OTCBB: SKYT).
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About Mobile Satellite Ventures and SkyTerra Communications, Inc.
MSV’s MSAT-2 satellite and MSV Canada’s MSAT-1 satellite deliver mobile wireless voice and data services primarily for public safety, security, fleet management and asset tracking in the U.S. and Canada. MSV and MSV Canada are developing a hybrid satellite-terrestrial communications network, which they expect will provide seamless, transparent and ubiquitous wireless coverage of the United States and Canada to conventional handsets. MSV holds the first FCC license to provide hybrid satellite-terrestrial services. MSV and MSV Canada plan to launch two satellites for coverage of the United States and Canada, which are expected to be among the largest and most powerful commercial satellites ever built. When completed, the network is expected to support communications in a variety of areas including public safety, homeland security, aviation, transportation and entertainment, by providing a platform for interoperable, user-friendly and feature-rich voice and high-speed data services. For more information go to http://www.msvlp.com.
Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act
This news release may contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, with respect to plans described in this news release. Such statements generally include words such as could, can, anticipate, believe, expect, seek, pursue, proposed, potential and similar words. Such forward-looking statements are subject to uncertainties relating to the ability of SkyTerra and MSV to raise additional capital or consummate a strategic transaction or deploy the next generation system, as well as the ability of SkyTerra and MSV to execute their business plan. We assume no obligation to update or supplement such forward-looking statements.