Satellite communications:
Portable SatCom FAQs

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Posted: 4/15/2004

We recommend that you review What System is Best for You?, which answers many of the most common questions.

There are also two excellent FAQ resources, which we recommend:

Please note that discounted prices and service rates are available to all non-profit, church, and humanitarian organizations only if you contact HumaniNet in advance. We can then direct you to the appropriate service partner.

Other frequently asked questions

How is Iridium service charged? Service is charged by the minute (airtime). Our service partners also charge an activation fee and a monthly fee.

Can I send and receive email with an Iridium satphone? Yes. Please see our section Iridium – Voice and Email Anywhere. Email works especially well with the UUPlus email compression service.

Is it possible to send and receive attachments with Iridium email? Yes. For users who frequently send and receive email with attachments, we recommend the UUPlus email compression service, which not only reduces transmission time (and thus cost) but improves efficiency of transmissions, such as far fewer interrupted transmissions.

How is RBGAN service charged? Our service partners charge an activation fee, a monthly access fee, and a usage fee, which is based on the number of megabytes sent and received.

I can access a Web site that gives me free and unlimited email. Would this work with the RBGAN modem? Yes, it should. But remember that when you download a Web page over the Internet, the RBGAN service charges for the kilobytes that you download (and send back). If you right-click on a Web page, then select Properties, you can determine the kilobytes, and thus the cost, about one cent per kilobyte. If the site has very few graphics, (a "lean" page) it may be only 10 kb, or 10 cents. So Web-based mail, as it is called, can be expensive if there are graphics, ads, etc. included with each page of mail that you download. It is usually better to access email using "POP3" or IMAP, which download messages into Outlook or some other mail software on your computer.

One of our team members ran a test scenario that involves receiving one 2 kilobyte (k) message and sending a 3k reply. Using a free email account from Yahoo, it costs $2.32. Using POP3 with a program like Outlook Express, this involves 10-12k of bandwidth usage, which would cost about 10 cents. Click here for the details.

Can the RBGAN be used for voice communications using Voice over IP (VoIP)? We know of successful VoIP tests using RBGAN, but it is not yet cost competitive. Even low data rates result in a cost of US $1 - $2 per minute. We will continue to monitor progress and testing in this area, however.

Can the RBGAN be used for instant messaging (IM)? Yes – we know of an organization that uses IM successfully. Any application that involves transmission and receipt of text messages works well with RBGAN.

For further information and assistance, contact us at

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