How Satellite Airtime Billing Increments Can Save AND Lose You Money


Satellite airtime billing is frequently calculated by predetermined increments of data and airtime usage, rather than the actual time and data expended in each billing period. This potentially saves time and money for both users and providers: For users, because it provides greater predictability over airtime billing and often provides larger usage allowances for a fixed fee, and for providers because it simplifies the billing process, making it easier to generate accurate bills.

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Every carrier uses increments, so unless you offer a broadband service – such as Iridium Pilot – you will inevitably end up calculating them into your costs when generating airtime bills for your customers.

However, satellite billing increments are not a universally positive strategy, and in some cases can lose company money over time. To explain the pros and cons of satellite billing increments, let’s look at how they are used to calculate satellite airtime billing.

What Are Satellite Airtime Billing Increments?

Satellite airtime billing increments divide data and airtime usage into kilobyte blocks, or blocks of time. Instead of simply counting the seconds and kilobytes used by each customer, airtime is calculated in chunks, each of which is charged at a fixed rate, even if the customer doesn’t end up using all the airtime in the chunk.

For regular and high-volume use customers, this can be a straightforward and cost saving strategy. On the other hand, variable-use and low volume customers can often lose out this way, especially if airtime usage only slightly exceeds the airtime volume in one chunk, making them liable for an entire extra increment, regardless of their usage.

Furthermore, many carriers set high mandatory minimum billing increments for different types of airtime services – e.g. 30 seconds of voice time. This means that users who speak for 35 seconds are charged for two 30 second blocks of airtime. The discrepancy between actual usage and mandatory minimums becomes even more stark with data use, because an email that takes three seconds to send may still be liable for a mandatory charge of 20 to 30 seconds – or even a minute in the case of Globalstar.

Mandatory Minimum Billing Increments By Carrier

When offering satellite airtime services to your customers, it’s important to be clear about the different minimum increments charged by each provider, as each carrier has a different policy. Currently, the only carrier without any mandatory minimum billing increments for both data and voice airtime is Iridium Pilot. Other major carriers have mandatory minimums as follows:

  • Fleet Broadband: Data 50 kB, voice 30 seconds
  • Iridium Handheld: Data and voice 20 seconds
  • Isatphone Pro: Data and voice 30 seconds
  • Globalstar: Data 15 seconds, voice one minute
  • BGAN: Data 50 kB, voice 30 seconds

Simplifying Your Customer Airtime Bills With SATbill

Calculating mandatory increments into a straightforward airtime bill for your customers is a frustrating process for both providers and end users. Our SATbill solution is designed to create simplified and transparent bills for any combination of voice and data services, providing users with a clear overview of their data use and increments, and all applicable charges to their account. To find out more about how SATbill can save you time and provide a more informed and cost-efficient service to your customers, please get in touch today.

  • Click here to view the Globalstar Billing Platform
  • Click here to view the Iridium Billing Platform
  • Click here to view the Thuraya Billing Platform
  • Click here to view the Inmarsat Billing Platform
  • Click here to view the VSAT Systems Billing Platform


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