Addressing the need for personal satellite-based communications, especially during calamities and in remote areas where there is no cellular connectivity, Smart Communications, Inc. has finally made commercially available the SatSleeve, a portable dock that transforms a smartphone into an instant satellite device.
Smart first introduced the SatSleeve in September last year, a month before the Bohol earthquake. But the devices weren’t made commercially available until now.
There are two versions of the SatSleeve. One version is compatible with iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s handsets, while another works with Samsung Galaxy S4 units. Smart also offers the XT, a stand-alone satellite phone unit that is specially made to withstand tough environments.
Both the SatSleeve and XT give users access to voice calls, emails, text messages and data services even in areas where cellular coverage is compromised.
Each of the device is offered in a SmartSAT package worth PHP38,500, inclusive of a special satellite SIM with an initial airtime credit load of about $225 or around PHP10,000, valid for one year.
A voice call from a remote area costs about $0.57 per minute to Smart, Sun and PLDT numbers, and $0.80 per minute to other networks. International calls range from $0.57 to $5.75, depending on the location.
On the other hand, SMS service costs $0.23 per message, while data service is charged $0.015 for every 10kb. Contacting the customer care hotline on satellite mode is free of charge. Prepaid load cards will be available to subscribers to maintain the satellite services.
Partnership with Thuraya
To offer the service, Smart has partnered with mobile satellite services provider Thuraya Telecommunications Company (Thuraya).
The deal, which was forged in September, expands Smart’s satellite coverage to over 160 countries or two-thirds of the world, including major sealanes in Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, America is not included in the coverage, so you’ll not be able to use the device in the U.S.
“With SmartSAT, we are bridging cellular and satellite technology to deliver boundless connectivity to a wider public,” said Orlando B. Vea, Smart Chief Wireless Advisor. Vea cited the country’s experience in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda, which toppled power and communication lines and rendered many parts of Eastern Visayas out of reach for days except through the use of satellite devices.
“The disaster brought about greater awareness of satellite communications as a vital lifeline in extreme scenarios,” said Vea. “The benefits of satellite communication became perceptible, setting off a demand for this technology to be made available to a wider public – and fast.”
With SmartSAT, Smart targets critical and demanding fields such as the media, the military, and the country’s disaster and emergency response agencies. The service is also aimed at business groups and even private individuals who need the security of having a back-up or enhanced mobile coverage.
Smart’s satellite business arm, in partnership with Thuraya, also offers Smart Marino Phonepal, a prepaid, IVR PIN-based calling service that allows seafarers to make voice calls from their ships with the lowest satellite rates at PHP18 per minute.
Smart has since deployed Marino PhonePal terminals to over 1,000 vessels and forged deals with over 100 manning agencies, maritime organizations, schools, and training centers to promote the service.