Insight | Case study: Ed Stafford


Case study: Ed Stafford


Globetrotting TV adventurer relies on BGAN to stay connected.

Ed Stafford is a British explorer, filmmaker, author, motivational speaker and social media commentator. He started running expeditions after retiring from the British Army, visiting locations including Patagonia, Borneo and Belize. Ed has also worked alongside the United Nations in Afghanistan advising on security, planning and logistics. He holds the Guinness World Record for being the first human ever to walk the length of the Amazon River, and also hosts a number of shows on the Discovery Channel.

The challenge

Whether he is filming his TV series for the Discovery Channel, First Man Out, or running expeditions in South America, Ed Stafford spends a huge amount of time in isolated and far-flung locations. To document his progress and ensure he can access support in an emergency, Ed needs to be able to stay in touch when on location. Yet, due to the remoteness of many of his excursions, Ed often finds himself without access to cellular or terrestrial networks.

For example, in April 2008 Ed set off on his expedition to walk the entire length of the Amazon River, from the source to the sea. Ed used the expedition as an educational tool to raise awareness of climate change by collecting and broadcasting the different experiences of the people living and working in the Andean mountains and Amazon rainforest.

However, Ed knew cellular coverage and terrestrial network infrastructure would be hard to come by in remote Amazon regions. As a result, he needed a connectivity solution that would help him stay in contact with support teams in case of an emergency, no matter where he found himself. It was also critical that Ed could keep his followers and the outside world updated on his progress with images, blogs and social media updates, as well as achieving his overall goal of raising awareness of climate change and the daily lives of the Amazonian people. 

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Ed Stafford using an Explorer terminal to connect to Inmarsat's network

The solution

Ed first came across Inmarsat’s BGAN service when he was working with the United Nations assisting Afghans with their first democratic elections. BGAN is trusted by governments, armed forces and companies to stay connected when everything else fails and offers 99.9% uptime.

Impressed by its capabilities, Ed opted to use the mobile satellite data service during his two-and-a-half-year Amazon trek. Armed with two Cobham SATCOM EXPLORER 500 terminals, Ed had the tools needed to share his journey with supporters thousands of miles away. The BGAN terminals also gave him the capacity to stream live video interviews at any point at his expedition. 

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The results

On 9th August 2010, Ed became the first man to walk the length of the Amazon River in South America from the source to the ocean. By using the EXPLORER 500 BGAN terminals, Ed was able to send back regular video blogs and interviews, which helped him raise awareness of climate change and give people at home first-hand insight into the experiences of the Amazonian people. The BGAN service also allowed Ed to broadcast his expedition live, even enabling him to do live interviews with CNN for 10 days in a row towards the end of the journey.

Noticing the clear benefits of the BGAN service, Ed continues to be an active BGAN user today, becoming a crucial part of his toolkit for communicating when in remote locations. Being able to keep in touch with his family – wife and fellow explorer Laura Bingham, who was a member of the first all-female team to paddle all 630 miles (1,041km) of the Essequibo River in South America, and their son – has also become hugely important to him.

“Now while I am away filming, BGAN helps me to continue running a number of businesses and stay in contact with my family. My phone and laptop work as normal and I can update social media and keep in touch with family too. The locations for First Man Out are all so remote this would be impossible to do otherwise, and I’m away so much of the year that I can’t afford to be offline that much.” 

Key benefits of BGAN:

  • Performance: standard IP at a rate of up to 492kbps with a low latency from 800 milliseconds
  • Reliability: operates over the Inmarsat L-band global satellite and ground network, with 99.9% availability
  • Easy to integrate: simple for field teams to set up, integrate and maintain without technical expertise or training
  • Cost-effective: low-cost terminal, low data rate plans with no reconnection fees
  • Enhanced support: free, over-the-air firmware upgrades
  • Easy-to-manage solution: remote terminal management, debugging and configuration options